What Mueller Wants to Ask Trump About Obstruction, and What It Means

The particular counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, just lately supplied President Trump’s legal professionals a listing of questions he wants answered in an interview. The New York Times obtained the checklist; listed here are the questions, together with the context and significance of every. The questions fall into classes primarily based on 4 broad topics. They aren’t quoted verbatim, and some have been condensed.

[Read our main story on the questions for Mr. Trump here.]

Questions associated to Michael T. Flynn, the previous nationwide safety adviser

• What do you know about telephone calls that Mr. Flynn made with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, in late December 2016?

These questions revolve round whether or not Mr. Trump tried to impede justice to defend Mr. Flynn from prosecution. His telephone calls with Mr. Kislyak are on the coronary heart of that inquiry.

During the calls, Mr. Flynn urged Russia not to overreact to sanctions simply introduced by the Obama administration. But Mr. Trump’s aides publicly denied that sanctions have been mentioned and, when questioned by the F.B.I., Mr. Flynn denied it, as properly. Mr. Mueller needs to know whether or not Mr. Flynn was working on Mr. Trump’s behalf. Prosecutors might already know the reply: Mr. Flynn has pleaded responsible to mendacity and is cooperating with investigators.

• What was your response to information reviews on Jan. 12, 2017, and Feb. Eight-9, 2017?

In January, the Washington Post columnist David Ignatius revealed Mr. Flynn’s phone calls with Mr. Kislyak. Mr. Ignatius questioned whether or not these conversations had violated a regulation prohibiting personal residents from making an attempt to undermine American insurance policies. In February, The Washington Post revealed the true nature of Mr. Flynn’s conversations with Mr. Kislyak.

Mr. Mueller needs to know, amongst different issues, whether or not Mr. Trump feared that his nationwide safety adviser had damaged the regulation and then tried to defend him from penalties.

• What do you know about Sally Yates’s conferences about Mr. Flynn?

Ms. Yates, the appearing legal professional normal for the primary weeks of the Trump administration, twice warned the White House that Mr. Flynn was mendacity, and these lies made him weak to Russian blackmail. No one from the White House has ever mentioned how a lot Mr. Trump knew about these warnings.

• How was the choice made to fireplace Mr. Flynn on Feb. 13, 2017?

Eighteen days after Ms. Yates’s warning, Mr. Flynn was requested to resign. The White House mentioned that Mr. Trump misplaced confidence in Mr. Flynn as a result of he had lied. But the White House has by no means totally defined why, after studying concerning the lie, officers waited so lengthy to act.

• After the resignations, what efforts have been made to attain out to Mr. Flynn about in search of immunity or potential pardon?

The Times recently revealed that, when Mr. Flynn started contemplating cooperating with the F.B.I., Mr. Trump’s legal professionals floated the concept of a pardon. Mr. Mueller needs to know why.

Questions associated to James B. Comey, the previous F.B.I. director

• What was your opinion of Mr. Comey in the course of the transition?

The questions on Mr. Comey relate to whether or not Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey final yr to defend Mr. Flynn, or anybody else, from prosecution. Mr. Trump has denied that, saying he fired Mr. Comey due to his mishandling of the F.B.I.’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal e mail server.

This query is essential as a result of, if Mr. Trump actually was upset concerning the Clinton investigation, he would have proven an early distaste for Mr. Comey.

• What did you consider Mr. Comey’s intelligence briefing on Jan. 6, 2017, about Russian election interference?

The briefing revealed that American intelligence companies had concluded that Russian operatives meddled within the election to harm Mrs. Clinton and to enhance Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump has repeatedly solid doubt on these conclusions and mentioned he believes the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, who denies any interference.

• What was your response to Mr. Comey’s briefing that day about different intelligence issues?

This query addresses paperwork written by a retired British spy, Christopher Steele, who mentioned that Russia had gathered compromising info on Mr. Trump. The paperwork, which turned often known as the Steele Dossier, additionally declare that the Trump marketing campaign had ties to the Russian authorities. Mr. Comey privately briefed Mr. Trump about these paperwork.

• What was the aim of your Jan. 27, 2017, dinner with Mr. Comey, and what was mentioned?

Just a few weeks after his briefing, Mr. Comey was referred to as to the White House for a personal dinner. Mr. Comey’s notes say that Mr. Trump raised issues concerning the Steele Dossier and mentioned he wanted loyalty from his F.B.I. director. This query touches on Mr. Trump’s true motivation for firing Mr. Comey: Was he dismissed as a result of he was not loyal and wouldn’t shut down an F.B.I. investigation?

• What was the aim of your Feb. 14, 2017, assembly with Mr. Comey, and what was mentioned?

That was a key second. Mr. Comey testified that the president advised him, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.” Mr. Trump has denied this.

• What do you know concerning the F.B.I.’s investigation into Mr. Flynn and Russia within the days main up to Mr. Comey’s testimony on March 20, 2017?

Mr. Comey’s testimony publicly confirmed that the F.B.I. was investigating members of the Trump marketing campaign for potential coordination with Russia. Mr. Mueller needs to know what function that revelation performed in Mr. Comey’s firing.

• What did you do in response to the March 20 testimony? Describe your contacts with intelligence officers.

In the aftermath, The Post reported, Mr. Trump requested the United States’ high intelligence official, Daniel Coats, to stress Mr. Comey to again off his investigation. Mr. Mueller needs to ask Mr. Trump about his contacts with Mr. Coats in addition to the C.I.A.’s director on the time, Mike Pompeo, and the National Security Agency’s director, Michael S. Rogers. The conversations may replicate Mr. Trump’s rising frustration with Mr. Comey — not concerning the Clinton case, however about his refusal to shut down the Russia inquiry.

• What did you assume and do in response to the information that the particular counsel was talking to Mr. Rogers, Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Coats?

It will not be clear whether or not Mr. Mueller is aware of one thing particular about Mr. Trump’s response to these interviews, however the query reveals that Mr. Mueller is keenly all for how Mr. Trump responded to every step of his investigation.

• What was the aim of your calls to Mr. Comey on March 30 and April 11, 2017?

Mr. Comey mentioned that Mr. Trump referred to as twice to ask him to say publicly that he was not below F.B.I. investigation. In the second name, Mr. Comey mentioned, the president added: “I have been very loyal to you, very loyal. We had that thing, you know.”

• What was the aim of your April 11, 2017, assertion to Maria Bartiromo?

While the White House finally mentioned Mr. Comey was fired for breaking with Justice Department coverage and discussing the Clinton investigation, Mr. Trump expressed no such qualms in an interview with Ms. Bartiromo of Fox Business Network. “Director Comey was very, very good to Hillary Clinton, that I can tell you,” he mentioned. “If he weren’t, she would be, right now, going to trial.”

• What did you assume and do about Mr. Comey’s May three, 2017, testimony?

In this Senate appearance, Mr. Comey described his dealing with of the Clinton investigation intimately. Mr. Comey was fired quickly after. Mr. Mueller’s query suggests he needs to know why Mr. Trump soured.

• Regarding the choice to fireplace Mr. Comey: When was it made? Why? Who performed a task?

Over the previous a number of months, Mr. Mueller has requested White House officers for the again story, and whether or not the general public justification was correct. He can be ready to evaluate Mr. Trump’s solutions to what he has discovered elsewhere.

• What did you imply while you advised Russian diplomats on May 10, 2017, that firing Mr. Comey had taken the stress off?

The day after Mr. Comey’s firing, Mr. Trump met with Russian officers within the Oval Office. There, The Times revealed, Mr. Trump prompt he had fired Mr. Comey due to the stress from the Russia investigation.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump mentioned. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

• What did you imply in your interview with Lester Holt about Mr. Comey and Russia?

Shortly after firing Mr. Comey, Mr. Trump undercut his personal argument when he advised NBC News that he had been interested by the Russia investigation when he fired Mr. Comey.

“I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”

• What was the aim of your May 12, 2017, tweet?

After The Times revealed the president’s personal dinner with Mr. Comey, Mr. Trump responded on Twitter.

Mr. Comey appeared unworried. “Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” Mr. Comey mentioned. The White House finally mentioned that, no, there have been no tapes.

• What did you consider Mr. Comey’s June Eight, 2017, testimony relating to Mr. Flynn, and what did you do about it?

After he was fired, Mr. Comey testified about his conversations with Mr. Trump and described him as preoccupied with the F.B.I.’s investigation into Russia. After the testimony, Mr. Trump referred to as him a liar.

• What was the aim of the September and October 2017 statements, together with tweets, relating to an investigation of Mr. Comey?

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, mentioned that Mr. Comey had testified falsely to Congress and prompt that the Justice Department may examine. Mr. Trump adopted up with tweets suggesting that he must be investigated for rigging an inquiry into Mrs. Clinton. Such feedback bolstered criticism that Mr. Trump views the Justice Department as a sword to use in opposition to his political rivals.

• What is the rationale to your continued criticism of Mr. Comey and his former deputy, Andrew G. McCabe?

Mr. Comey and Mr. McCabe are amongst Mr. Trump’s favourite targets. Mr. McCabe is a lifelong Republican, however Mr. Trump has criticized him as a Clinton loyalist as a result of Mr. McCabe’s spouse, a Democrat, ran unsuccessfully for workplace in Virginia and obtained donations from a Clinton ally. This query means that Mr. Mueller needs to know whether or not Mr. Trump’s criticism is an effort to injury the F.B.I. whereas it investigates the president’s associates.

Questions associated to Attorney General Jeff Sessions

• What did you assume and do relating to the recusal of Mr. Sessions?

Mr. Trump has criticized Mr. Sessions’s recusal from the Russia investigation. The Times reported that Mr. Trump humiliated him in an Oval Office assembly and accused him of being disloyal. Mr. Sessions finally submitted his resignation, although Mr. Trump didn’t settle for it. Along with the following two questions, this inquiry seems to be at whether or not Mr. Trump views regulation enforcement officers as protectors.

• What efforts did you make to strive to get him to change his thoughts?

The Times has reported that Mr. Trump advised his White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, to cease Mr. Sessions from recusing himself. Mr. McGahn was unsuccessful, and Mr. Trump erupted, saying he wanted an legal professional normal who would defend him.

• Did you focus on whether or not Mr. Sessions would defend you, and reference previous attorneys normal?

Mr. Trump has spoken affectionately about previous attorneys normal who he mentioned have been loyal to their presidents. He cited Robert F. Kennedy and Eric H. Holder Jr. as examples. “Holder protected the president,” he mentioned in a Times interview in December. “And I have great respect for that.”

• What did you assume and what did you do in response to the information of the appointment of the particular counsel?

In a twist, Mr. Mueller’s very appointment has turn into a part of his investigation. Mr. Trump has repeatedly denounced the inquiry as a “witch hunt.” Mr. Trump blames the appointment on Mr. Sessions’s recusal.

• Why did you maintain Mr. Sessions’s resignation till May 31, 2017, and with whom did you focus on it?

Mr. Trump rejected Mr. Sessions’s resignation after aides argued that it might solely create extra issues. The particulars of these discussions stay unclear, however Mr. Trump’s advisers have already given Mr. Mueller their accounts of the conversations.

• What discussions did you could have with Reince Priebus in July 2017 about acquiring the Sessions resignation? With whom did you focus on it?

Mr. Priebus, who was Mr. Trump’s chief of employees, has said he raced out of the White House after Mr. Sessions and implored him not to resign. Mr. Mueller has interviewed Mr. Priebus and would give you the option to evaluate his solutions with these of Mr. Trump.

• What discussions did you could have relating to terminating the particular counsel, and what did you do when that consideration was reported in January 2018?

Again, Mr. Mueller’s investigation intersects with its personal existence. The Times reported that, in June 2017, Mr. Trump ordered Mr. McGahn to fireplace Mr. Mueller. Mr. McGahn refused. Though Mr. Trump’s personal advisers knowledgeable Mr. Mueller about that effort, Mr. Trump denied it: “Fake news,” he mentioned. “A typical New York Times fake story.”

• What was the aim of your July 2017 criticism of Mr. Sessions?

Mr. Trump unleashed a collection of assaults on Mr. Sessions in July.

Campaign Coordination With Russia

• When did you turn into conscious of the Trump Tower assembly?

This and different questions relate to a June 9, 2016, assembly at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who supplied political filth about Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., organized the assembly. He mentioned he didn’t inform his father about it when it occurred.

• What involvement did you could have within the communication technique, together with the discharge of Donald Trump Jr.’s emails?

When The Times discovered concerning the assembly, Mr. Trump helped draft a deceptive assertion in his son’s identify, omitting the true goal of the assembly. After The Times obtained the youthful Mr. Trump’s emails, he printed them on Twitter.

• During a 2013 journey to Russia, what communication and relationships did you could have with the Agalarovs and Russian authorities officers?

The Trump Tower assembly was organized via the Russian singer Emin Agalarov, his billionaire father, Aras Agalarov, and a music promoter. Mr. Mueller is scrutinizing the character of connections between the Agalarovs, Mr. Trump and Russian officers.

• What communication did you could have with Michael D. Cohen, Felix Sater and others, together with overseas nationals, about Russian actual property developments in the course of the marketing campaign?

Mr. Mueller is referring to a failed effort to construct a Trump Tower in Moscow. Mr. Sater, a enterprise affiliate, proposed the concept to Mr. Cohen, the longtime private lawyer to Mr. Trump. Emails present that Mr. Sater believed that the undertaking would showcase Mr. Trump’s deal-making acumen and propel him into the presidency.

• What discussions did you could have in the course of the marketing campaign relating to any assembly with Mr. Putin? Did you focus on it with others?

Journalists and lawmakers have uncovered a number of examples of Russian officers attempting, via intermediaries, to organize a gathering between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin. Senior marketing campaign officers rejected some overtures, however Mr. Trump’s involvement has been a thriller.

• What discussions did you could have in the course of the marketing campaign relating to Russian sanctions?

Even because the Obama administration stepped up sanctions on Russia, Mr. Trump struck a laudatory tone towards Mr. Putin.

• What involvement did you could have regarding platform modifications relating to arming Ukraine?

A portion of the Republican platform was modified in a far more favorable to Russia.

• During the marketing campaign, what do you know about Russian hacking, use of social media or different acts aimed on the marketing campaign?

This is a key query. Mr. Trump praised the discharge of hacked Democratic emails and referred to as on Russia to discover others. Mr. Mueller’s investigation has unearthed proof that at the very least one member of Mr. Trump’s marketing campaign — George Papadopoulos — was advised that Russia had obtained compromising emails about Mrs. Clinton. But Mr. Trump has repeatedly mentioned there was “no collusion” with the Russian authorities.

• What information did you could have of any outreach by your marketing campaign, together with by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential help to the marketing campaign?

This is without doubt one of the most intriguing questions on the checklist. It will not be clear whether or not Mr. Mueller is aware of one thing new, however there is no such thing as a publicly obtainable info linking Mr. Manafort, the previous marketing campaign chairman, to such outreach. So his inclusion right here is critical. Mr. Manafort’s longtime colleague, Rick Gates, is cooperating with Mr. Mueller.

• What do you know about communication between Roger Stone, his associates, Julian Assange or WikiLeaks?

Mr. Stone, a longtime adviser, claimed to have inside info from WikiLeaks, which printed hacked Democratic emails. He appeared to predict future releases, and was in contact with a Twitter account utilized by Russian intelligence. This query, together with the following two, present that Mr. Mueller remains to be investigating potential marketing campaign cooperation with Russia.

• What do you know in the course of the transition about an try to set up back-channel communication to Russia, and Jared Kushner’s efforts?

Mr. Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, has testified that the Russian ambassador proposed getting Mr. Flynn in touch with Russian officers to focus on Syria. In response, Mr. Kushner mentioned, he proposed utilizing safe telephones contained in the Russian Embassy — a extremely uncommon suggestion that was not accepted.

• What have you learnt a couple of 2017 assembly in Seychelles involving Erik Prince?

The assembly was convened by Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates. It introduced Mr. Prince, a casual adviser to Mr. Trump’s group, along with a Russian investor shut to Mr. Putin.

• What have you learnt a couple of Ukrainian peace proposal supplied to Mr. Cohen in 2017?

Mr. Cohen, the lawyer, hand-delivered to the White House a peace proposal for Ukraine and Russia. This uncommon little bit of backdoor diplomacy is of curiosity as a result of it concerned a Ukrainian lawmaker who mentioned he was being inspired by Mr. Putin’s aides. Mr. Cohen has mentioned he didn’t focus on the proposal with Mr. Trump.

Matt Apuzzo is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter primarily based in Washington. He has lined regulation enforcement and safety issues for greater than a decade and is the co-author of the e-book “Enemies Within.”


Michael S. Schmidt is a Washington correspondent for The Times who covers nationwide safety and federal investigations. He was a part of two groups that gained Pulitzer Prizes in 2018 — one for reporting on office sexual harassment points and the opposite for protection of President Donald Trump and his marketing campaign’s ties to Russia.@NYTMike


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