Politics

Mueller: Trump's WikiLeaks praise was 'problematic' and gave a 'boost' to illegal activity

Key Points
  • Former special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday testifies that President Donald Trump's glowing praise for WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign gave a "boost" to alleged "illegal activity."
  • The president had called the dumps of Democrats' emails by WikiLeaks a "treasure trove" and declared "I love WikiLeaks!" at the time.
  • Mueller is also asked about Donald Trump Jr.'s direct communications with WikiLeaks on Twitter, which he calls "disturbing and also subject to investigation."
Former Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller testifies before Congress on July 24, 2019, in Washington, DC.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Former special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday testified that President Donald Trump's praise for WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign gave a "boost" to alleged "illegal activity."

WikiLeaks, the document disclosure advocacy group, had dumped troves of private emails from prominent Democrats, including the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, in the final months of the 2016 presidential election.

The federal government alleges those accounts were hacked by Russian intelligence and passed along by WikiLeaks. The president had called the document dumps a "treasure trove" and declared "I love WikiLeaks!" at the time.

Mueller, in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, was asked by Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., to respond to Trump's positive comments about WikiLeaks.

"Well, problematic is an understatement in terms of what it displays, in terms of giving some hope, or some boost, to what is and should be illegal activity," Mueller said.

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

Mueller's condemnation offered a moment of contrast from his mostly subdued, sometimes halting performance testifying before two House committees. The hearings marked Mueller's first — and possibly last — time answering questions publicly about his probe of Russian election meddling, possible coordination between Trump's campaign and the Kremlin and possible obstruction of justice by Trump himself.

Quigley also asked Mueller about Donald Trump Jr.'s direct communications with WikiLeaks on Twitter. WikiLeaks direct-messaged Trump Jr. asking him to share a story attacking Clinton, the Democratic nominee. Trump Jr. tweeted his response, showing that he had already shared the link.

Mueller called that behavior "disturbing and also subject to investigation."

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Robert Mueller testified before Congress—Watch the key moments