Saturday 15 December 2018

Mueller probe poses dozens of questions for president

U.S. President Donald Trump. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Rachael Alexander in Washington

Special counsel Robert Mueller has given a list of almost four dozen questions to lawyers for President Donald Trump as part of his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether Mr Trump (below) obstructed justice, according to a report published in 'The New York Times'.

The newspaper obtained a list of the questions, which range from Mr Trump's motivations for firing FBI director James Comey a year ago to contacts Mr Trump's campaign had with Russians.

Although Mr Mueller's team has indicated to the president's lawyers that he's not considered a target, investigators remain interested in whether Mr Trump's actions constitute obstruction of justice and want to interview him about several episodes in office. The lawyers want to resolve the investigation as quickly as possible, but there's no agreement on how to do that.

Many of the questions obtained by the 'New York Times' centre on the obstruction issue, including his reaction to Attorney General Jeff Sessions's recusal from the Russia investigation, a decision Mr Trump has angrily criticised.

Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow declined to comment on Monday night, as did White House lawyer Ty Cobb.

The questions also touch on the Russian meddling and whether the Trump campaign co-ordinated with the Kremlin in any way.

In one question obtained by the 'Times', Mr Mueller asks what Mr Trump knew about campaign staff, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, reaching out to Moscow.

Crimes

Mr Mueller has brought several charges against Mr Manafort, but none is for any crimes related to Russian election interference during the 2016 campaign. And he has denied anything to do with such an effort.

The queries also touch on Mr Trump's businesses and his discussions with his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, about a possible Moscow real estate deal. Mr Cohen's business dealings are part of a separate FBI investigation.

One question asks what discussions Mr Trump may have had regarding "any meeting with Mr Putin," referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Another question asks what the president may have known about a possible attempt by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to set up a back channel with Russia before Mr Trump's inauguration.

Additional questions centre on Michael Flynn, Mr Trump's former national security adviser, who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his discussions on sanctions against Russia with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition. Mr Flynn is now co-operating with Mr Mueller's investigators.

"What did you know about phone calls that Mr Flynn made with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in late December 2016?" reads one question.

Another asks if there were any efforts to reach out to Mr Flynn "about seeking immunity or possible pardon."

Mr Flynn was fired on February 13, 2017, after White House officials said he had misled them about his Russian contacts during the transition period by saying that he had not discussed sanctions.

The following day, according to memos written by Mr Comey, the president cleared the Oval Office of other officials and encouraged Mr Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn.

Irish Independent

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