Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Word of the Day: QUESTIONS

Special Counsel in the Russia investigation Robert Mueller has questions.  Robert Mueller has lots of questions.  Robert Mueller has lots of questions for President Donald Trump.

Recently, The New York Times newspaper released a long list of questions that the Special Counsel is anxious to get answered by the President.  It now appears, by reporting in the Washington Post newspaper, that the questions were likely leaked by a member of President Trump's personal legal team, Jay Sekulow, and are a list of questions Sekulow (and/or others) believe Mueller will want to ask the President.  Let's take a look at this lengthy list:

The first group is related to former National Security Advisor (for all of about two-and-a-half weeks), Michael Flynn:
What did you know about phone calls that Mr. Flynn made with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, in late December 2016?  Flynn called Kislyak regarding sanctions against Russia, urging little to no reaction.
What was your reaction to news reports (revealing Flynn's phone calls to Kislyak) on Jan. 12, 2017, and Feb. 8-9, 2017?  Was Trump worried about Flynn having broken the law and thus wanted to shield him?
What did you know about Sally Yates’s meetings about Mr. Flynn (possibly being vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians)?  What exactly President Trump knew about these warnings has never been clearly articulated.
How was the decision made to fire Mr. Flynn on Feb. 13, 2017?  Flynn remained on the job as National Security Advisor for more than two weeks, resigning on February 13, 2017, instead of being fired immediately.
After the resignation, what efforts were made to reach out to Mr. Flynn about seeking immunity or possible pardon?  Trump's lawyers began to raise the possibility of a presidential pardon after it was disclosed Flynn might cooperate with Mueller's investigation.

The next group of questions, perhaps not surprisingly the longest list, deals with former F.B.I. Director James Comey:
What was your opinion of Mr. Comey during the transition?  Trump had only good things to say about James Comey, except regarding his handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation.  Trump publicly stated to NBC News anchor Lester Holt a year ago that the Russian investigation, not the Hillary Clinton investigation, was part of his reasoning for firing Comey.

What did you think about Mr. Comey’s intelligence briefing on Jan. 6, 2017, about Russian election interference?  That briefing included American intelligence agencies' conclusion that Russia interfered with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

What was your reaction to Mr. Comey’s briefing that day about other intelligence matters?  Here, the focus would be on what is called the Steele Dossier, compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, which suggested Russia had collected dirt on Donald Trump.

What was the purpose of your Jan. 27, 2017, dinner with Mr. Comey, and what was said?  Comey has stated that, at that dinner, Trump wanted Comey to pledge his loyalty to him.  Comey said he would be honest with the President, eschewing the word "loyalty".

What was the purpose of your Feb. 14, 2017, meeting with Mr. Comey, and what was said?  At that meeting, Comey testified that the President said, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go," and that he interpreted that as a kind of directive or strong suggestion.

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?  Did Comey's investigation into Trump family members possibly working with Russia have anything to do with Trump's firing of Comey?

What did you do in reaction to the March 20 testimony (of James Comey)?  Describe your contacts with intelligence officials.  The Washington Post had reported that Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence for the U.S., was asked by Trump to try and get Comey to back off the Russia investigation.

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?  Does Mueller already have information about this and wants to see what the President will say?

What was the purpose of your calls to Mr. Comey on March 30 and April 11, 2017?  Comey has said Trump asked him twice, in phone calls, to say he was not under investigation publicly.  

What was the purpose of your April 11, 2017, statement to [Fox Business Network's Wall Street and financial host] Maria Bartiromo?  Trump told Bartrimono that he had no problems with James Comey, even though he had previously stated that Comey was fired for publicly discussing the Clinton investigation.

What did you think and do about Mr. Comey’s May 3, 2017, testimony?  Comey was fired six days after giving detailed testimony about his handling of the Clinton investigation.

When was the decision to fire James Comey made, why was it made, and who played a role in it?  This is likely another compare-what-he-says-to-others question.

What did you mean when you told Russian diplomats on May 10, 2017, that firing Mr. Comey had taken the pressure off?  In an Oval Office meeting with Russian U.S. Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Russian envoy Sergey Lavrov a year ago, with no American press present, Trump said, "I just fired the head of the F.B.I.  He was crazy, a real nut job.  I faced great pressure because of Russia.  That’s taken off."  (We only learned about it from Russian news media reports later.)

What did you mean in your interview with Lester Holt about Mr. Comey and Russia?  This was the first time Trump said the Russia Investigation had something to do with the firing of James Comey.

What was the purpose of your May 12, 2017, tweet?  Trump tweeted, "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!"

What did you think about Mr. Comey’s June 8, 2017, testimony regarding Mr. Flynn, and what did you do about it?  Comey said that Trump was preoccupied with the Russia investigation.

What was the purpose of the September and October 2017 statements, including tweets, regarding an investigation of Mr. Comey?  Comey's testimony was being characterized as false and that the Department of Justice should investigate him.

What is the reason for your continued criticism of Mr. Comey and his former deputy, Andrew G. McCabe?  This likely relates to ongoing intent on the President's part with regard to the Russia investigation.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is also an area of inquiry for Robert Mueller:
What did you think and do regarding the recusal (from anything regarding the Russia investigation) of Mr. Sessions?  Trump has publicly criticized, and (according to The New York Times) privately humiliated, Jeff Sessions because of his recusal from the Russia investigation.  

What efforts did you make to try to get him to change his mind?  The New York Times reported that Trump tried to get White House Counsel Don McGahn to stop Sessions from recusing himself -- he was unsuccessful -- and that Trump wanted an Attorney General to protect him.

Did you discuss whether Mr. Sessions would protect you, and reference past attorneys general?  (Going back to the previous question...)  Trump has cited Robert F, Kennedy and Eric Holder being loyal to their respective presidents (John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama), and how he respects that loyalty.

What did you think and what did you do in reaction to the news of the appointment of the Special Counsel?  Trump has blamed Jeff Sessions' recusal as the reason for Mueller's appointment as Special Counsel.  (How ironic it is to be asking the one being questioned about yourself!)

Why did you hold Mr. Sessions’ resignation until May 31, 2017, and with whom did you discuss it?  Trump ultimately refused Jeff Sessions' resignation, likely on the advice of some of his aides.  (Note here that Mueller already has sworn testimony of those aides' accounts of what happened.)

What discussions did you have with Reince Priebus in July 2017 about obtaining the Sessions resignation, and with whom did you discuss it?  Another comparative question, as Mueller already has testimony from Reince Priebus about this.

What discussions did you have regarding terminating the Special Counsel, and what did you do when that consideration was reported on in January 2018?  The New York Times reported that Trump wanted White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller, which McGahn refused to do.  (Just last month, The New York Times also reported that Trump made the same push again in December of last year.)  

What was the purpose of your July 2017 criticism of Mr. Sessions?  Trump slung a number of attacks at Jeff Sessions, months after his recusal.

Finally, the topic of the Trump campaign's involvement with Russia is included:
When did you become aware of the Trump Tower meeting? The now infamous meeting that included Donald Trump, Jr. (who said, "I love it," at acquiring dirt on Hillary Clinton), Jared Kushner, Trump Campaign Advisor Paul Manafort, Russian lawyer (and now also Russian informant) Natalia Veselnitskaya, and several others, certainly points to a quid pro quo scenario being set up.

What involvement did you have in the communication strategy, including the release of Donald Trump Jr.’s emails?  Trump drafted a false public statement about the meeting after The New York Times wrote about the meeting taking place.  

During a 2013 trip to Russia, what communication and relationships did you have with the Agalarovs and Russian government officials?  Russian pop singer Emin Agalarov and his father Aras Agalarov (a Russian billionaire real estate developer with ties to the Kremlin) were among those who arranged the Trump Tower meeting.  Could Trump and Aras Agalarov both being wealthy real estate developers have any significance here?

What communication did you have with Michael D. Cohen, Felix Sater and others, including foreign nationals, about Russian real estate developments during the campaign?  Here, Mueller is focusing on the failed attempt at building a Trump Tower in Russia during the 2000's.

What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding any meeting with Mr. Putin?  Did you discuss it with others?  While there are several known examples of Trump and Putin subordinates trying to arrange meetings between the two men, any direct involvement in those arrangements by Trump is still unknown.

What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding Russian sanctions?  This is part of investigating why Trump remained silent and acquiescent regarding Vladimir Putin, even praising him, during his presidential campaign.

What involvement did you have concerning platform changes regarding arming Ukraine?  Another possible comparative question, since it has been reported that the Trump campaign forced the Republican National Committee to soften and/or remove language in its 2016 Republican National Convention platform condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

During the campaign, what did you know about Russian hacking, use of social media or other acts aimed at the campaign?  Trump acted publicly as though he had heard about Russia's hacking Democratic National Party E-mails through the news media and Wikileaks.  It turns out that one member of his presidential campaign, George Papadopoulos received information that Russia had hacked some compromising E-mails related to Hillary Clinton.  Not likely he kept that information to himself.

What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?  Again, a potential compare-what-he-says-to-others question ... and clearly a big one.

What did you know about communication between Roger Stone, his associates, Julian Assange or WikiLeaks?  Trump has publicly praised Wikileaks -- "I love Wikileaks!" -- and Stone, who was officially with the Trump campaign for a short time, is supposed to have worked with Wikileaks regarding hacking Hillary Clinton E-mails. 

What did you know during the transition about an attempt to establish back-channel communication to Russia, and Jared Kushner’s efforts?  It was Jared Kushner's suggestion to establish back channels, which included -- get this -- the Trump campaign's use of secured telephones inside the Russian U.S. embassy.  (The idea was rejected.)

What do you know about a 2017 meeting in Seychelles involving [Blackwater USA founder] Erik Prince?  Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, arranged the meeting between Erik Prince and a Russian investor with ties to Vladimir Putin.  The reason for the meeting is already known to Mueller through testimony of an adviser to the Crown Prince.

What do you know about a Ukrainian peace proposal provided to Mr. Cohen in 2017?  Michael Cohen has publicly stated that he never discussed the peace proposal with Trump.

Robert Mueller's questions are not limited to these, and he can certainly expand on these questions.  Just by the nature of these questions and the areas they cover, Special Counsel Robert Mueller clearly feels he needs to head in a certain direction ... and that direction includes collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia to usurp an American presidential election in Trump's favor. 

This may be why Trump wanted to have Hillary Clinton's campaign investigated for illegally affecting the election results, even with him winning the election!

Yes, Robert Mueller has lots of questions for President Trump.  So do we.  He wants answers.  So do we.  This country deserves answers.  I truly hope Special Counsel Mueller will get to ask President Trump these questions, and any others he sees fit.


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