Robert Mueller's proposed questions should make Donald Trump very nervous

Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation began a year ago -- tasked with looking into Russian meddling in the 2...

Posted: May 1, 2018 2:38 PM
Updated: May 1, 2018 2:38 PM

Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation began a year ago -- tasked with looking into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and the possibility of officials in Donald Trump's campaign colluding with the Russians.

With the leak Monday night of nearly 50 questions Mueller would like to ask the President as part of the investigation, it's now clear that not only has the scope of Mueller's investigation widened significantly but also that Trump, at least in Mueller's mind, has a lot to explain about his own role in all of it. The language of the leaked questions, by the way, was written by Trump's legal team, but off a list of detailed topics Mueller's team said they would like to ask about.

The leak of Mueller's questions -- which should not be treated as the totality of what he wants to ask -- also lands at a moment in which the White House remains deeply divided about whether or not Trump should sit down for a face-to-face interview with Mueller before the investigation wraps up. Trump himself has at times voiced a willingness to voluntarily sit for an interview -- I explain why I think that is here -- but his legal team has been more skeptical. The leading voice in opposition to Trump granting an interview with Mueller -- John Dowd -- left Trump's legal team in March. CNN's most recent reporting is that he is leaning away from doing an interview since federal agents raided his attorney Michael Cohen's home, office and hotel room.

The sweep of questions that Mueller is seeking to ask Trump may change the President's mind about sitting for an interview with the special counsel.

Here's how New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt, who broke the story, described the nature of the questions:

"They deal chiefly with the president's high-profile firings of the F.B.I. director and his first national security adviser, his treatment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a 2016 Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton."

Trump, via Twitter, immediately seized on the fact that the focus of Mueller's investigation didn't appear to be on his campaign colluding with the Russians.

"So disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were 'leaked' to the media," he wrote. "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!"

He followed that tweet up with this one -- a variation on a theme: "It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened! Witch Hunt!."

I'm no lawyer -- sorry Mom! -- but those tweets seem like Trump missing the forest for the trees. Trump seems to think that if he and his campaign are cleared of colluding with the Russians -- and we don't know whether or not that will happen -- then he is off the hook entirely. That is, um, not so.

Take Mueller's apparent focus on the firings of former FBI director James Comey and former national security adviser Michael Flynn and whether those amount an attempt to obstruct the investigation.

Remember that Trump's explanation on why he fired Comey has repeatedly shifted. He has said it was because of how Comey handled himself in the 2016 election. But he has also said that it had to do with "this Russia thing" in an interview with NBC's Lester Holt. And, Trump reportedly expressed relief to a group of Russian officials in the wake of firing Comey. "I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job," Trump told the Russians. "I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off."

Trump could very easily be cleared of collusion -- the actual criminal activity would likely be conspiracy or obstruction -- with the Russians and found culpable of attempting to obstruct justice. Trump would have no way of knowing what Mueller knew -- or didn't know -- over the past year of the investigation. Meaning that Trump -- or someone in his inner circle -- could well have been working to throw roadblocks in front of the Mueller investigation because they simply didn't know what he would find and wanted to end and/or discredit the investigation before it got anywhere near where it is today.

Then there are these lines in the Schmidt story about other questions Mueller wants to ask Trump:

"They also touch on the president's businesses; any discussions with his longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, about a Moscow real estate deal; whether the president knew of any attempt by Mr. Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to set up a back channel to Russia during the transition; any contacts he had with Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime adviser who claimed to have inside information about Democratic email hackings; and what happened during Mr. Trump's 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant."

That's a whole lot of ground. And it shows that Mueller is following the money. The connective tissue in all of those story lines is cash -- whether it's Trump's own, money moving through Michael Cohen or the financial dealings of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.

It's not clear to me whether Trump's tweets this morning are motivated by a genuine belief that the leaked questions are somehow good for him because collusion is not the main focus or whether he simply doesn't understand that there are lots and lots of questions that Mueller wants to ask about that suggest major challenges ahead for the president and his team.

Regardless of why Trump thinks what he thinks, the main takeaway from the leaking of these questions is that the Mueller investigation is wide and broad -- and that Trump, in Mueller's mind, can shed lots of light on much of it. That is a very big deal.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 42281

Reported Deaths: 1540
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin13568791
Ramsey5256233
Dakota271396
Stearns252319
Anoka2422111
Nobles16886
Washington128341
Olmsted127620
Mower9832
Rice8848
Scott8814
Clay61338
Kandiyohi5931
Blue Earth5752
Wright5395
Carver4942
Todd4032
Sherburne3695
Lyon3442
Freeborn3130
Watonwan2710
Steele2471
Benton2393
St. Louis23516
Nicollet20612
Martin1755
Winona14415
Goodhue1428
Cottonwood1410
Le Sueur1321
Otter Tail1141
Crow Wing11312
Pine1130
Chisago1101
McLeod1030
Dodge970
Carlton940
Polk903
Unassigned8838
Isanti830
Murray820
Chippewa811
Waseca780
Pipestone744
Douglas730
Itasca7112
Becker660
Morrison661
Meeker641
Faribault620
Sibley582
Jackson570
Pennington540
Beltrami530
Brown462
Mille Lacs402
Wabasha390
Renville372
Fillmore360
Rock340
Swift331
Grant320
Houston320
Yellow Medicine310
Roseau280
Redwood250
Wilkin223
Koochiching211
Norman210
Cass192
Lincoln190
Big Stone170
Kanabec171
Wadena170
Aitkin160
Marshall160
Clearwater130
Mahnomen131
Pope130
Stevens110
Hubbard100
Lake90
Traverse60
Lac qui Parle50
Red Lake40
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 35313

Reported Deaths: 751
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk7538185
Woodbury334644
Black Hawk251959
Buena Vista173811
Johnson14798
Dallas140931
Linn139983
Marshall110019
Scott108410
Dubuque97823
Story8726
Pottawattamie83513
Wapello71531
Muscatine69345
Crawford6813
Sioux5050
Tama48729
Webster4285
Wright3991
Louisa36713
Jasper35417
Plymouth3525
Warren3331
Cerro Gordo3171
Dickinson3063
Washington2569
Hamilton2021
Boone1721
Clay1501
Clarke1443
Allamakee1384
Clinton1381
Mahaska11917
Shelby1190
Carroll1171
Bremer1167
Poweshiek1138
Franklin1120
Pocahontas1091
Des Moines1022
Emmet970
Cedar961
Henry933
Hardin920
Cherokee851
Marion850
Floyd822
Taylor810
Guthrie784
Monona780
Benton751
Jones721
Butler702
Osceola690
Sac680
Buchanan651
Calhoun652
Iowa631
Jefferson630
Harrison620
Hancock611
Jackson610
Humboldt601
Lyon600
Fayette590
Delaware561
Madison552
Lee542
Mills530
Palo Alto530
Monroe527
Clayton503
Winneshiek500
Grundy470
Mitchell460
Winnebago440
Davis431
Union430
Kossuth420
Howard370
Lucas354
Unassigned350
Chickasaw310
Greene310
Cass300
Worth250
Ida230
Keokuk231
Appanoose223
Page220
Van Buren210
Audubon181
Adair170
Ringgold161
Montgomery152
Decatur130
Fremont110
Wayne110
Adams80
Rochester
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 63°
Mason City
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 62°
Albert Lea
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 66°
Austin
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 64°
Charles City
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 62°
Beautiful day today, storm chances return Tuesday
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Extended tax deadline is just two days away

Image

Zollman Zoo adapting to social distancing guidelines

Image

25th Anniversary Jodi

Image

New MC Test Site

Image

Operation Dry Water

Image

CL Splash Pad Opening

Image

MC Fireworks Ordinance Change

Image

Roosters Base Ball Club of Rochester home opener cancelled

Image

Community garden helps feed people in need

Image

Autumn Ridge Church sees online viewership grow

Community Events