Jul 24, 2019

Mueller on Trump's praise of WikiLeaks: "Problematic is an understatement"

Asked by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) to react to quotes by President Trump and Donald Trump Jr. during the 2016 campaign praising stolen material published by WikiLeaks, special counsel Robert Mueller responded: "Problematic is an understatement."

Why it matters: Throughout his testimony, Mueller has been reluctant to answer questions that stray outside the contents of his 450-page report. His sharp criticism of Trump's praise of WikiLeaks, which he described as an "hostile intelligence service" whose founder Julian Assange is under indictment, is a rare rebuke of the president.

The exchange:

  • Quigley: "This is Donald Trump, Oct. 10, 2016: 'I love Wikileaks. This Wikileaks stuff is unbelievable. It tells you the inner heart. You got to read it.' Donald Trump, Oct. 12, 2016: 'This Wikileaks is like a treasure trove.' Donald Trump, Oct. 31, 2016: 'Boy, I love reading those Wikileaks.' ... How do you react to it?"
  • Mueller: "Well, problematic is an understatement in terms of giving some hope or boost to what is illegal activity."
  • Rep. Quigley: "And Donald Trump Jr. had direct electronic communications with WikiLeaks. On October 3, 2016, WikiLeaks sent another direct message to Trump Jr., asking 'you guys to help disseminate a link alleging candidate Clinton had advocated a drone to attack Julian Assange.' Trump Jr. responded that he had already done so. Same question. This behavior, at the very least, disturbing?"
  • Mueller: "Disturbing and also subject to investigation."

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5 big moments from Robert Mueller's House Intelligence testimony

Robert Mueller. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

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What's new: Mueller told Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.) that he didn't subpoena President Trump for an interview "because of the necessity of expediting" the investigation. "If we did subpoena the president, he would fight the subpoena and we would be in the midst of the investigation for a substantial period of time."

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The 9 big moments from Robert Mueller's House testimony

Robert Mueller prepares to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Former special counsel Robert Mueller testified Wednesday in back-to-back sessions before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.

The big picture: Mueller — who refused to read directly from the report during his appearances, denied Democrats some of the cinematic wins they'd hoped for — was generally concise with his responses, often asking members to repeat their questions and directing them to refer to the wording in his report.

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The Trump claims that Robert Mueller rebutted in his testimony

Mueller testifies before the House Select Committee on Intelligence on July 24, 2019. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

In his testimony Wednesday, former special counsel Robert Mueller disputed 5 of President Trump's frequent claims about his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the president's potential efforts to obstruct justice.

The big picture: Many of the claims Mueller knocked down were already refuted in his 450-page report, but Democrats were seeking to animate the special counsel's findings through Wednesday's high-stakes testimony. That was clear from the moment that Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) opened the hearing with his line of questioning.

Go deeperArrowJul 24, 2019