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Is Robert Mueller Too Old? (Some Honest Talk On Cognitive Aging)

WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 24: Former special counsel, Robert Mueller is seen during a hearing at the Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday July 24, 2019 in Washington, DC. The former FBI director publicly addressed questions for the first time about his investigation of President Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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When the Robert Mueller hearing started yesterday, I jokingly expressed my irritation that those hearings would suck up energy better used to solve the retirement-related problems of the day.

Little did I realize that there would be a very clear connection to retirement in the reporting.

Here’s Darren Samuelsohn at Politico:

At times, the former FBI director — who had earned a reputation as a studious and hard-nosed witness over dozens of congressional hearings in the 2000s — seemed unfamiliar with details from his nearly two-year-old investigation. He repeatedly asked lawmakers to pose questions again.

Even as Mueller became more forceful in his afternoon testimony, the narrative seemed set. People across the political spectrum, even those who have worked with Mueller, were airing concerns that the 74-year-old longtime lawman, at a minimum, appeared out of practice.

“This is delicate to say, but Mueller, whom I deeply respect, has not publicly testified before Congress in at least six years. And he does not appear as sharp as he was then,” David Axelrod, the former top Obama White House strategist while Mueller was FBI director, wrote on Twitter about 45 minutes into the nationally televised hearing.

“Bob Mueller is struggling,” added Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor who worked under Mueller in the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C. “It strikes me as a health issue. We need only look at footage of his earlier congressional appearances to see the dramatic difference in his demeanor and communicative abilities.”

Others cautioned that the curt and careful responses may have simply reflected Mueller’s stubborn desire to remain above the political fray, not stray from his 448-page report and protect any ongoing investigations.

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