With no magic bullet from Mueller, Democrats have only 2020 to turn the tables on Trump

PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON - Both sides of America's toxic political divide cherry picked to suit themselves from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's much-awaited testimony to Congress, and on the face of it, it is the Democratic Party that has emerged from it with a weakened hand.

Yet the absence of a magic bullet from Mr Mueller that may have given the Democrats solid ground for impeaching President Donald Trump could in fact be a blessing in disguise.

Impeachment would undoubtedly fail in the Republican-controlled Senate, leaving Trump supporters angrier.

Even the American public in general is not keen on impeachment: According to a Washington Post-ABC poll earlier this month, a majority or 59 per cent of Americans do not support impeaching the President.

Mr Mueller's testimony has almost certainly not made any difference; in fact, it has made the prospect of impeachment more remote.

But not moving to impeach leaves time and space for the Democratic Party to chip away at President Trump, eroding his credibility and waiting for American voters to deliver a far more decisive verdict one way or the other in the 2020 election.

The President, ebullient, was quick to grab a victory lap on the driveway of the White House, telling reporters: "We had a good day today."

Mr Mueller looked aged - he will be 75 next month. His body language alone did little for the credibility of the man Democrats have long seen as their white knight.

He alternated between moments of penetrating lucidity and seeming bewilderment as Republican Congressmen badgered him at the seven-hour twin hearings on Wednesday (July 25).

The rest of the time, he stonewalled, going by the book and refusing to be drawn into delivering speculative answers to leading questions.

Mr Mueller did make key points: that the probe he led was not the "witch hunt" that the President calls it and that his report did not "exonerate" the President from accusations of obstruction of justice.

Russia's operations to influence the 2016 election were also real, and it would continue to interfere, he said.

He added that the President could be charged with obstruction of justice after leaving office.

But while Mr Mueller's testimony reconfirmed much of what was in the voluminous, 448-page report he submitted in April, it did not produce any new or pivotal information.

The Democratic Party is thus left with only one option - the 2020 election.

That is the option favoured all along by Democratic Party leader Nancy Pelosi, who has been trying to resist calls from more firebrand Democrats to impeach.

"This gives Nancy Pelosi what she needs to send off those in her party who have been pressing for impeachment, and allows for investigations to go on - especially of Trump's finances - which may prove useful in the 2020 campaign," Professor Glenn Altschuler, who teaches American studies at Cornell University, told The Straits Times.

In a related development, the President on Tuesday filed a suit in a federal court in Washington aimed at preventing the House Ways and Means Committee from getting hold of his tax returns.

This is something he has, contrary to convention, refused to release, claiming he is still under audit.

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