Utah Rep. Chris Stewart grills Robert Mueller on alleged leaks

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The single member of Utah’s congressional delegation who had an opportunity to question former special counsel Robert Mueller during testimony Wednesday used his time to raise issues of alleged leaks during the 22-month probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

In a move reminiscent of a debate gaffe by then-2012 presidential contender Mitt Romney, Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, referenced “a binder” of information to support a line of questioning he was pursuing during the U.S. House Intelligence Committee hearing.

“I’m holding here in my hand a binder of 25 examples of leaks that occurred from the special counsel’s office from those who associated with your work dating back to as early as a few weeks after … the beginning of your work and continuing up to a few months ago,” Stewart said. “All of these, all of them have one thing in common. They were designed to weaken or embarrass the president.”

Stewart’s office did not respond to a Deseret News request for copies of the documents referenced during his questioning of Mueller.

During the hearing, Stewart offered a few details of the alleged leaks, including one claiming that someone from Mueller’s team tipped CNN about an FBI raid of presidential adviser Roger Stone’s home in January. Mueller declined to speak about specifics of that incident and later went on to refute Stewart’s claims of leaks originating from the special counsel’s office.

“From the outset we’ve undertaken to make certain that we minimized the possibility of leaks, and I think we were successful over the two years that we were in operation,” Mueller said.

Stewart’s binder reference brought back memories of comments by Romney in the second debate with President Barack Obama. Romney was making a point about pay equity and said when he was governor of Massachusetts he asked his staff to find more qualified women applicants for cabinet positions.

“I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks?'” Romney said. “And they brought us whole binders full of women.”

The comment became an instant internet meme and was wielded by Romney detractors as evidence of insensitivity to gender equity issues.

Chase Thomas, executive director of left-leaning political advocacy group Alliance for a Better Utah, noted the lack of new information from Mueller’s testimony Wednesday and underscored the need for better protections from outside interference in the U.S. election process.

“As expected, Mueller’s testimony didn’t come with any explosive or new revelations,” Thomas said in a statement. “Rather, it once again clearly highlighted the key findings of his report on the unprecedented attack upon our democratic process by hostile foreign actors. Learning from these attacks and preventing them from happening in future elections should be of bipartisan and immediate concern for our elected officials and the rest of Congress.”

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