- Robert Mueller, the special counsel in charge of investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US election delivered a list of questions to President Donald Trump’s legal team outlining how a one-on-one interview with Trump might play out.
- The questions Mueller wants to ask Trump span nearly every thread of the special counsel’s investigation, including actions Trump took that may expose him to obstruction of justice allegations, among other things.
- Mueller also wants to know about Trump’s thinking during the two publicly known occassions in which Trump sought to fire Mueller.
- The development comes as Trump’s lawyers and Mueller search for some middle ground in negotiations for that one-on-one interview.
The special counsel Robert Mueller has nearly 50 substantive questions he wants to ask President Donald Trump as part of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
The New York Times obtained a list of those questions and published some them on Monday night.
Among the key inquiries, Mueller wants to know whether the Trump campaign sought help from Russia during the 2016 election. “What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign,” one question reads, according to The Times.
That question is at the crux of the Russia probe at large, because it hits at the primary concern of the US intelligence community. The agencies said in a 2017 report that Russia engaged in a targeted effort to influence US voters through propaganda and other means, in order to swing the presidential election in Trump’s favour.
Signs the Trump campaign and the Kremlin were in contact:
- Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, tried to secure a Moscow real-estate deal on Trump’s behalf between 2015 and early 2016.
- Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, reportedly told an Australian diplomat that Russia had compromising information on Hillary Clinton. That revelation is what prompted the FBI to look into the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia.
- Trump called out to Russia for help to find Clinton’s emails during a news conference in July 2016. Some of those emails, and those from the Democratic National Committee, landed on the internet via WikiLeaks as the election heated up in 2016.
A timeline later emerged, as Mueller focused on what, and how much, Trump knew about WikiLeaks and the DNC hacks.
Interactions with Michael Flynn, Jeff Sessions, and James Comey
Other key questions revolve around Trump’s relationships with his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, attorney general Jeff Sessions, and James Comey, the FBI director that Trump fired in May 2017.
Mueller reportedly planned to ask Trump about a dinner and meetings he had with Comey, for example – the details of which make up a thread of the obstruction-of-justice case against Trump.
Trump made a number of public statements about his interactions with Comey, Flynn, and Sessions:
- On Comey: Trump fired the FBI director in May 2017, citing his handling of the Clinton email probe, but later said on national television that he had the Russia investigation in mind when he did it. Memos that Comey recorded documenting his interactions with Trump later revealed that Trump sought his personal loyalty, and asked him to drop the FBI’s investigation into his ousted national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
- On Flynn: Trump said Flynn was forced out of the White House for lying to Vice President Mike Pence and the FBI, but later said on Twitter that Flynn should “ask for immunity.” Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian operatives during the presidential transition. He is believed to be cooperating with Mueller.
- On Sessions: Trump has frequently criticised the attorney general in public and online for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. According to multiple news reports on the matter, Trump had seen Sessions – who was the first sitting US senator to publicly endorse him during his campaign – as someone who would protect him from the Russia probe.
Mueller also wants to know about the two publicly known occasions in which Trump moved to fire the special counsel, the questions show, according to The Times.
The questions offer a broad view of how Mueller will try to interpret Trump’s state-of-mind during some key moments of his campaign and first term in office. Trump’s legal team is reportedly back to negotiating terms of a one-on-one interview with Mueller, after previously indicating the president would refuse the request.
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