- Screenshot taken from c-span.org
- Guy Reschenthaler during the Mueller hearing
During that nearly five minute interview, Reschenthaler focused on comparing Mueller’s conduct to recommendations made by former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno in the 1990s and ended with Reschenthaler calling Mueller’s investigation “un-American.”
But after the hearing, Reschenthaler spoke to Marty Griffin and Wendy Bell on their KDKA talk show and focused on a different aspect of the hearing.
Instead of laying out his case of why he believed the Mueller investigation was flawed, Reschenthaler peddled a conspiracy theory that have been widely spread by conservative commentators, that Mueller was never actually in charge of the investigation.
“I think that Mueller may not have been the guy that has been calling all the shots,” said Reschenthaler on KDKA radio. “He may have been a figure head in that investigation. I didn’t think that until this hearing today.”
Reschenthaler said that he started to believe that Mueller wasn't in charge of the report when Mueller was questioned about Fusion GPS, an American commercial research and strategic intelligence firm. Though Reschenthaler didn’t bring up this issue when he questioned Mueller about two hours later during the hearing.
“When he stumbled on that right out of the gate, and some of the questions where he couldn't comment on, it led me to believe that other people where doing most of the work and he was just merely presenting a facade,” said Reschenthaler on KDKA.
Bell verbally agreed with Reschenthaler several times during the short KDKA interview and even once interrupted his statement to interject with, “He didn’t know,” referring to Mueller.
At the beginning of the hearing, Mueller told lawmakers that there were several things he couldn’t comment on. According to Vanity Fair, Mueller said in his opening statement that his “testimony will be limited” and he wouldn’t answer questions about several contentious areas of the investigation, including the Steele dossier and the origins of the Russia probe.
There is no evidence that Mueller wasn’t in charge of the investigation, but that hasn’t stopped right-wing personalities from speculating. On June 26, a host of the Fox News program Fox & Friends, Brian Kilmead, speculated that Mueller doesn’t know what is inside the report.
“The other thing I have a sense of, he's got until July 17 to bone up on [the report],” said Kilmead. “I don't think he knows the details of the report.”
According to Media Matters, a nonprofit that tracks conservative media, Kilmead's comments were likely the impetus of this conspiracy. However, Reschenthaler was not the only person to spread this rumor. Several conservative commentators speculated this, before Reschenthaler went on the KDKA radio show.
Today, far-right media personality Jack Posobiec tweeted Mueller “didn’t write it himself.” Posobiec also peddled the Pizza-gate conspiracy theory. Conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, known for promoting conspiracy theories in his films, also speculated the Mueller was not in charge of the report. “Was Mueller just the ventriloquist doll for Weissman and a Democratic hit team?” D’Souza tweeted today.
A request for comment to Reschenthaler's office went unreturned.
Bell said during the interview with Reschenthaler that the Mueller hearing was “just a bunch of grandstanding.”
The actual interview between Reschenthaler and Mueller went differently than he portrayed on KDKA. Reschenthaler assessed that the Mueller investigation outcome went against a recommendation made by former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. Reschenthaler said Reno said investigations that don’t recommend indictments should not be made public. Reno’s recommendation were made when President Bill Clinton was being investigation by special prosecutor Ken Starr in the 1990s.
"So essentially your report does everything AG Reno warned against. You compiled a summary of nearly 450 pages of the very worst information you gathered against the target of your investigation, the President of the United States, knowing you were not recommending charges, (1/3) pic.twitter.com/vW7eMpJ60L— Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (@GReschenthaler) July 24, 2019
“I disagree with that,” said Mueller.
“Can I just finish my answer?” asked Mueller.
“Quickly,” said Reschenthaler.
“I operate under the current statute, not the original statute, so I am most familiar with the current statute,” said Mueller.
Reschenthaler then ended his line of questioning by talking about his own experience as an officer in the JAG corp and his time as a magisterial district judge in Allegheny County. He then claimed that drafting a large investigation without an indictment “frankly flies in the face of American justice, and I find those facts and this entire process un-American.”
Rep. Reschenthaler, a former JAG prosecutor, feeling emboldened to lecture Bob Mueller, a Marine and former US attorney and FBI director, on legal process shows you where we're at in this hearing right now.— Shane Harris (@shaneharris) July 24, 2019
According to PBS correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, Reschenthaler appeared to be taking notes from Trump, who has also aired several conspiracy theories about the Mueller report.
Reschenthaler just said Mueller engaged in behavior that was "un-American" because he aired Pres Trump's "dirt laundry" by carrying out Mueller investigation & writing Mueller report.— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) July 24, 2019
That echoes Pres Trump's argument that investigating him or disagreeing w/ him is un-American.
Bell and Griffin did not ask Reschenthaler about his specific line of questioning towards Mueller.