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Monday, July 22, 2019

Mueller's circus training

by digby

This is interesting. I guess it didn't occur to me that Mueller would need such guidance and wouldn't have it the Justice Department to provide it:

Robert Mueller testified more than 60 times on Capitol Hill during his dozen years as FBI director, but none of those hearings packed anywhere near the amount of anticipation, partisan rancor, or political stakes as his appearance promises to on Wednesday.

And the former special counsel has relied heavily on one man to help him navigate this Washington landmine — Jonathan Yarowsky.

Over four decades as a Beltway attorney, Yarowsky offered impeachment advice to Bill Clinton, and worked for a lawmaker who Richard Nixon once called the “executioner.” He oversaw an unsuccessful push to get a 1990s-era Attorney General Bill Barr to appoint an independent counsel to probe the George H.W. Bush administration’s pre-Gulf War Iraq policies, and he handled fist-pounding document requests from Congress during the contentious Clinton years. Essentially, he’s been a part of some of the biggest “gate” controversies since Watergate — Iraqgate, Whitewatergate, Travelgate, Filegate.

And now, he’s a late entry to Russia-gate.

The 70-year-old lawyer who is a partner at WilmerHale, Mueller’s old law firm, has handled the drawn-out negotiations with House staffers over the contours of Mueller’s testimony. And he’s helped Mueller navigate a toxic Capitol Hill environment that is far more partisan than what the former Russia investigator experienced when he last testified there six years ago as FBI director.

Thanks to Yarowsky, both House Democrats and Mueller have made concessions. Initially, Mueller stated he did not want to testify at all, but facing the reality of a subpoena, the special counsel’s representative has been able to limit his latest client’s appearances before two panels to five hours. And notably, none of Mueller’s testimony will be behind closed doors — a precarious situation that would have allowed lawmakers to later skew his statements publicly.

“He’s the right guy to get. He understands the sand traps as well as anybody,” said Julian Epstein, who replaced Yarowsky in the mid-1990s as the Democrats’ top counsel on the Judiciary Committee. “He’s a good insurance policy to make sure the dialogue beforehand is what it should be.”

"Sounds like a wise move for Mueller to have such a Sherpa," added Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson, a senior Democrat on the House Judiciary panel who will be among the first to question Mueller.

Of course, Mueller is not a man who needs a roadmap to ready himself for Congress. A half-dozen people who know the long-time lawman described a studious and sober preparer who would conduct practice sessions before legal showdowns, hunker down by himself to go through notes and receive briefers one-by-one ahead of even routine oversight hearings.

But Mueller’s testimony this week will be his first as a private citizen. That means he’s without the deep bench of resources he had during dozens of Capitol Hill appearances as the FBI director under both Republican and Democratic presidents. Now, Mueller is relying on people like Yarowsky and a core group of top aides who were among his earliest hires in the Russia probe — longtime chief of staff Aaron Zebley and James Quarles, who took a lead role during the investigation working with lawyers for President Donald Trump and the White House.

While Zebley and Quarles are there to prep Mueller on the detailed and barbed questions he’s likely to get about his team’s final report, Yarowsky has been there to line up the logistics and offer other Capitol Hill guidance.

Perhaps most importantly, Yarowsky maintains lasting connections to the Judiciary Committee. He spent more than a dozen years as one of the panel’s top lawyers.

His boss for much of the time was Rep. Jack Brooks, the panel’s chair from 1989 to 1995. Brooks was a famous firebrand in Washington, intimidating to even the most bludgeoning of lawmakers. The Texas Democrat drew Nixon’s ire for his leadership role in the committee’s impeachment hearings and a 1977 Washington Post article quoted one of Lyndon B. Johnson’s former aides calling Brooks as “one of the few men LBJ was ever afraid of.”

I assume they are preparing for the onslaught from the Freedom Caucus jackasses, which is going to be a real circus. I hope he's prepared. During the 90s they were pretty bad but they never dreamed of going after someone like Mueller before. (They focused on the "jackbooted thugs" of the ATF in those days.) It's a different world today...