In an op-ed just published by The New York Times, Robert De Niro has urged Robert Mueller III to go beyond the limited public remarks that he made after generating a 440-page report on alleged election tampering by the Russians. De Niro has played Mueller on numerous skits of Saturday Night Live, some of which have been very critical about possible complicity between President Trump and his advisors, and the Russians. The president has denied the allegations right along, and said the report clears him. Because of that, De Niro writes, it is not enough for Mueller to say that the report speaks for itself.
Of his appearances as Mueller, De Niro writes, “There’s a level of satire, directed at the current administration. To be fair, not everyone appreciates the humor. The president has tweeted that there’s “nothing funny about tired ‘Saturday Night Live’” and that it’s “very unfair and should be looked into,” even “tested in courts,” and “this is the real collusion!” Though what or with whom the show would be colluding is unclear. But then I don’t have to tell you about problems with the term “collusion.” You barely mention the word in your report, and then only to explain why you’re not using it. That could be a punch line on “Saturday Night Live.”
As I prepared for my role on the show, I got to know you a lot better…I watched how you presided over the special counsel’s office apparently without a single leak. And you never wavered, even in the face of regular vicious attacks from the president and his surrogates. While I and so many Americans have admired your quiet, confident, dignified response in ignoring that assault, it allowed the administration to use its own voice to control the narrative. And those voices are so loud and so persistent that they beat even reasonable people into submission. The loudest, most persistent voice belongs to the president himself, and under most circumstances, we want to believe our president.”
De Niro writes that the president’s penchant for hostility, and the way that “the president treats lies, exaggerations and bullying as everyday weapons in his communication toolbox,” begs for a more forceful response by Mueller, who plans to exit and fade back into private life.
“Say what you will about the president — and I have — when it comes to that lying, exaggerating, bullying thing, no one can touch him. He has set up a world where it seems as if those disapproving of him can effectively challenge him only by becoming just like him. He’s bringing down the level of the entire playing field. And here, Mr. Mueller, is where you come in — where you need to come in. In your news conference, you said that your investigation’s work “speaks for itself.” It doesn’t. It may speak for itself to lawyers and lawmakers who have the patience and obligation to read through the more than 400 pages of carefully chosen words and nuanced conclusions (with all due respect, as good a read as it is, you’re no Stephen King).”
De Niro concluded: “The country needs to hear your voice. Your actual voice. And not just because you don’t want them to think that your actual voice sounds like Robert De Niro reading from cue cards, but because this is the report your country asked you to do, and now you must give it authority and clarity without, if I may use the term, obstruction.”
The Saturday Night Live season is over and it is questionable whether Mueller will still be relevant when it returns in the fall, so it is possible that De Niro has played him for the last time on the show.