In a photo taken Wednesday, June 21, 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs after a closed-door meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about Russian meddling in the election and possible connection to the Trump campaign, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Robert Mueller’s investigation into allegations of “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence agencies, to the extent that it was ever about “collusion” at all, seems to be winding down. The last hurdle for Mueller before his team of highly paid investigators get down to investigating allegations of jaywalking and mopery with the intent to loiter appears to be negotiating an interview with President Trump.
According to news reports, negotiations between President Trump’s legal team and Mueller ceased when the FBI raided the home, residence, and office of President Trump’s personal lawyer. At that point, negotiations ended and rightfully so. It is hard to read the raid on Cohen as anything other than Mueller using suspected offenses by Michael Cohen, subcontracting the legwork to the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York to avoid going to Rod Rosenstein for an expansion of his charter, to intimidate Cohen, shake up Trump, and gain access to all of Trump’s communications with his personal attorney.
Now the New York Times has obtained a list of the questions Mueller wants to ask Trump. Some of the questions have a particular context, like a specific interview Trump gave or a particular tweet. In the interests of not violating copyright and my time management, I haven’t included that. Hit the link if you are curious.
Questions about Mike Flynn
What did you know about phone calls that Mr. Flynn made with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, in late December 2016?
What was your reaction to news reports on Jan. 12, 2017, and Feb. 8-9, 2017?
What did you know about Sally Yates’s meetings about Mr. Flynn?
How was the decision made to fire Mr. Flynn on Feb. 13, 2017?
After the resignations, what efforts were made to reach out to Mr. Flynn about seeking immunity or possible pardon?
Questions about James Comey
What was your opinion of Mr. Comey during the transition?
What did you think about Mr. Comey’s intelligence briefing on Jan. 6, 2017, about Russian election interference?
What was your reaction to Mr. Comey’s briefing that day about other intelligence matters?
What was the purpose of your Jan. 27, 2017, dinner with Mr. Comey, and what was said?
What was the purpose of your Feb. 14, 2017, meeting with Mr. Comey, and what was said?
What did you know about the F.B.I.’s investigation into Mr. Flynn and Russia in the days leading up to Mr. Comey’s testimony on March 20, 2017?
What did you do in reaction to the March 20 testimony? Describe your contacts with intelligence officials.
What did you think and do in reaction to the news that the special counsel was speaking to Mr. Rogers, Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Coats?
What was the purpose of your calls to Mr. Comey on March 30 and April 11, 2017?
What was the purpose of your April 11, 2017, statement to Maria Bartiromo?
What did you think and do about Mr. Comey’s May 3, 2017, testimony?
Regarding the decision to fire Mr. Comey: When was it made? Why? Who played a role?
What did you mean when you told Russian diplomats on May 10, 2017, that firing Mr. Comey had taken the pressure off?
What did you mean in your interview with Lester Holt about Mr. Comey and Russia?
What was the purpose of your May 12, 2017, tweet?
What did you think about Mr. Comey’s June 8, 2017, testimony regarding Mr. Flynn, and what did you do about it?
What was the purpose of the September and October 2017 statements, including tweets, regarding an investigation of Mr. Comey?
What is the reason for your continued criticism of Mr. Comey and his former deputy, Andrew G. McCabe?
Questions about Jeff Sessions
What did you think and do regarding the recusal of Mr. Sessions?
What efforts did you make to try to get him to change his mind?
Did you discuss whether Mr. Sessions would protect you, and reference past attorneys general?
What did you think and what did you do in reaction to the news of the appointment of the special counsel?
Why did you hold Mr. Sessions’s resignation until May 31, 2017, and with whom did you discuss it?
What discussions did you have with Reince Priebus in July 2017 about obtaining the Sessions resignation? With whom did you discuss it?
What discussions did you have regarding terminating the special counsel, and what did you do when that consideration was reported in January 2018?
What was the purpose of your July 2017 criticism of Mr. Sessions?
Campaign Coordination With Russia
When did you become aware of the Trump Tower meeting?
What involvement did you have in the communication strategy, including the release of Donald Trump Jr.’s emails?
During a 2013 trip to Russia, what communication and relationships did you have with the Agalarovs and Russian government officials?
What communication did you have with Michael D. Cohen, Felix Sater and others, including foreign nationals, about Russian real estate developments during the campaign?
What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding any meeting with Mr. Putin? Did you discuss it with others?
What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding Russian sanctions?
What involvement did you have concerning platform changes regarding arming Ukraine?
During the campaign, what did you know about Russian hacking, use of social media or other acts aimed at the campaign?
What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?
What did you know about communication between Roger Stone, his associates, Julian Assange or WikiLeaks?
What did you know during the transition about an attempt to establish back-channel communication to Russia, and Jared Kushner’s efforts?
What do you know about a 2017 meeting in Seychelles involving Erik Prince?
What do you know about a Ukrainian peace proposal provided to Mr. Cohen in 2017?
The Flynn questions are interesting. My bet is Trump told Flynn to make contact with the Russians (nothing wrong), he probably discussed a sanctions strategy (nothing wrong even if he’d promised the Russians he would remove sanctions once he was sworn in), and I’d feel comfortable speculating that Trump and Flynn agreed that they weren’t going to tell anyone. This explains Flynn lying to Mike Pence and the delay in firing Flynn over it. The Logan Act is unconstitutional bullsh** and Trump was president-elect and Flynn was already on the federal payroll as a transition team member as well as acting at Trump’s behest.
As I’ve said, numerous times, I think Trump talking to Mueller is a very bad, horrible, terrible, disastrous idea. The questions give a clear roadmap to what Mueller’s game is. He really has nothing and he’s trying to get Trump’s recollections to compare them to what other recalled. This is not a harmless exercise. One of the charges on which Scooter Libby was convicted was that he said he remembered hearing Valerie Plame’s name from Tim Russert and Tim Russert said he didn’t mention her name. That’s it. A felony perjury conviction. Trump is an amazingly undisciplined person and he seems to have the ability to edit his memory to the extent that I think he’d pass a polygraph no matter what he said.
The lack of substance in Mueller’s investigation is best illustrated in his “collusion” questions. The famous Papadopoulos conversation isn’t alluded to. There is one possible Carter Page question. There don’t seem to be any questions relating to the infamous dossier.
I don’t know why Trump would agree to talk about process questions with Mueller. He hasn’t been hired as a management consultant and the president has the authority to fire and to criticize anyone he appoints for, as James Comey testified, “any and no reason.” And I certainly don’t understand why he’d even bother considering putting himself in jeopardy by answering “how did you feel” questions which seem more calculated to elicit material for a NYT front page story than answer questions about Russia and the 2016 election.
Trump has reacted:
So disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were “leaked” to the media. No questions on Collusion. Oh, I see…you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed, and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information. Nice!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 1, 2018
And if these did leak from Mueller’s team, then there is zero reason for Trump to cooperate with Mueller. But Mollie Hemmingway has an interesting take:
Trump is condemning this leak of Mueller questions but i have to wonder if Team Trump leaked them to show Mueller’s got nothing. https://t.co/V07VgRLslw
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) May 1, 2018