President Donald Trump denied Tuesday that he obstructed justice and lambasted the publication of questions special counsel Robert S. Mueller III allegedly wants to ask him as “disgraceful.”
It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened! Witch Hunt!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 1, 2018
The president was reacting to a New York Times report citing a list that his personal legal team compiled after a meeting with the special counsel and his staff about nearly four dozen questions Mueller has for Trump. Topics include former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the firing of FBI Director James B. Comey, possible Trump campaign cooperation with Russia, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Mueller reportedly wants to ask Trump what he knew about Flynn’s contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States before Trump was sworn in; how he decided to terminate the retired three-star Army general; and whether he or his team approached Flynn about a pardon.
The section on Comey is longer. It includes Trump’s opinion of Comey during the transition and details about their private interactions, which the former FBI boss has discussed before a Senate panel, in his memoir and in media interviews. Mueller also wants to ask Trump how he decided to fire Comey and what he told Russian diplomats in the Oval Office a day later, among other questions.
On Russia and the 2016 campaign, Mueller is interested in what Trump knew about a June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting his close associates had with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer who promised dirt on Democratic foe Hillary Clinton. He also wants to question Trump about a memo he reportedly dictated on Air Force One last year about that meeting that contained false information, as well as campaign conversations about Russian sanctions and anything he knew about Russia-based efforts to conduct cyber operations in the United States. Another line of questioning focuses on contacts between Trump, his advisers and Russians.
The president lashed out at the report — and Mueller’s probe — with several tweets Tuesday morning.
He dubbed the leak of the questions to the Times “So disgraceful.” He again called the Justice Department’s Russia probe a “Witch Hunt.” He said there are “No questions on Collusion,” though the list prepared by the Times includes several seeking information about contacts with Russians and knowledge of its cyber operation during the election. Trump’s own administration has already retaliated for those actions by slapping sanctions on Russia — including two top government intelligence agencies — and expelling U.S.-based intelligence and diplomats.
“Oh, I see … you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed, and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information. Nice!” the president wrote.
So disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were “leaked” to the media. 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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 1, 2018
Some legal experts, such as Benjamin Wittes of the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution and the Lawfare blog, immediately pounced on Trump’s assertion that the questions are not about collusion.
Wittes tweeted Tuesday morning nearly a dozen of the questions reported by the Times, quoting from Trump’s tweet at the top of each one: “No questions on Collusion.”
"No questions on Collusion" pic.twitter.com/PZeqB398Sb— Benjamin Wittes (@benjaminwittes) May 1, 2018
As legal and political experts chattered away all morning on cable news programs, which the president watches religiously, some said the questions suggest Mueller and his team are looking hard at whether the president obstructed justice with any of his actions — including firing Comey and later admitting that the Russia probe was on his mind when he did so.
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