Donald Trump, Russia investigation: Mueller to drop ‘bombshell’ question

A LEAKED list of questions special counsel Robert Mueller wants to ask Donald Trump has raised eyebrows, with one in particular implying the President is in more trouble than we thought.

The questions, drawn up in preparation for a potential interview with Mr Trump and leaked to The New York Times, seek to uncover whether Mr Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia and whether he obstructed justice during the subsequent investigation.

The leak has drawn the ire of Mr Trump, who says the list of questions shows there was no crime or collusion with the Russians.

While most of the queries cover material already known to the public, such as the controversial firing of Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey, one question implies Mr Mueller has more up his sleeve than we realised.

“What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?” the question reads.

The wording is the key. Outreach to Russia, not from Russia.

Robert Mueller’s team is investigating Russian election meddling. Picture: Charles Dharapak/AP

Robert Mueller’s team is investigating Russian election meddling. Picture: Charles Dharapak/APSource:Supplied

There is plenty of evidence on the public record that Russia reached out to members of the Trump campaign, but as far as we know, no evidence suggesting the reverse — that the campaign actively sought out Russian assistance.

Former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos and the 2016 Trump Tower meeting were all brought about from Russia’s end.

However, Mr Mueller’s question implies he has proof that Mr Manafort, or someone from the campaign, did in fact reach out to Russia.

It’s possible the question is simply fishing for information, but as Axios has pointed out: “Good lawyers don’t ask questions they don’t know the answer to.” And by all accounts, Mr Mueller is a very good prosecutor.

Mr Manafort was Mr Trump’s campaign manager for almost five months in 2016.

He and his longtime right-hand man Rick Gates have been charged with dozens of counts related to conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy to defraud the US and failure to file as foreign agents.

However none of the charges relates to allegations of Russian election interference and possible co-ordination with Trump associates, and Mr Manafort has denied having anything to do with any such effort.

The questions, 49 in all, were published by The New York Times, which said they were compiled by Mr Trump’s lawyers during negotiations with Mr Mueller’s investigators about a possible interview with the President.

Meanwhile, a new piece of information out today reveals how the President could be forced to answer these questions even if he doesn’t want to.

Mr Trump, pictured with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, has dismissed claims of Russian collusion during the 2016 election campaign. Picture: Jorge Silva/AFPSource:AFP

 Mr Trump’s former lawyer has revealed the special counsel raised the prospect of subpoenaing the President in March.

John Dowd told the Associated Press that Mr Mueller’s team broached the subject during a meeting with Mr Trump’s legal team while they were negotiating the terms of a possible interview with the President.

The meeting marked the first time the special counsel’s office raised the possibility of forcing Mr Trump to testify as part of the ongoing investigation.

Mr Dowd’s comments come more than a month after he resigned from the legal team.

They also provide a new window into the nature of the Trump legal team’s interactions with the special counsel, who the President has increasingly tried to undermine through public attacks.

THE LIST

The Times claims it got the list from someone “outside Mr Trump’s legal team”.

The President fumed over Twitter, blasting the leak as disgraceful.

Buried amid the list is another seemingly innocuous question with big ramifications.

“What communication did you have with Michael D Cohen, Felix Sater and others, including foreign nationals, about Russian real estate developments during the campaign?” it reads.

This question indicates Mr Trump’s finances and real estate deals are also under investigation — an idea that would undoubtedly make the President uncomfortable.

Mr Trump has previously warned that Mr Mueller would cross a “red line” if he widened his investigation to include the Trump family’s finances.

Mr Mueller’s team could be analysing Mr Trump’s dealings and how they relate to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it a crime for a US company to act with wilful blindness toward the corrupt activities of a foreign business partner, lawyer Elura Nanos wrote for Law & Crime.

OTHER QUESTIONS

One of the questions asks what discussions Mr Trump may have had regarding “any meeting” with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Another asks what the US President may have known about a possible attempt by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to set up a back channel with Russia before the US inauguration.

At least two questions directly address tweets from the President.

One asks: “What was the purpose of your May 12, 2017, tweet?” It references a tweet Mr Trump posted after reports that former FBI director James Comey described a private dinner with the President in personal memos. Mr Comey wrote in a memo that Trump repeatedly asked him for loyalty.

“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Mr Trump tweeted.

Another question asks about tweets in which Mr Trump suggested Mr Comey should be investigated for the way he handled an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

The questions also refer to television interviews Mr Trump has given.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *