20 Questions Congress Should Ask Robert Mueller
If Congress wants to most effectively highlight Robert Mueller’s findings and counter the Trump Administration’s lies, this is what they should ask.
The day we have all been anticipating for over 2 years is about to arrive. Throughout those 2 years, President Trump has launched baseless attacks on the integrity of the Russia investigation. Attorney General William Barr has mischaracterized the findings of that investigation and has done everything in his power to protect President Trump. As Democrats seek to highlight President Trump’s corruption, and Republicans seek to conceal it, this week will have vast importance.
Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 448-report has been public since April 18. It covered Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, the Trump Campaign’s receptiveness to Russia’s overtures, and potential obstruction of justice on the part of President Trump. Now, Mueller will testify before both the House Intelligence and House Judiciary Committees on Wednesday starting at 8:30 am.
Objectively speaking, the Trump Administration and Republicans have taken advantage of the fact only a small percentage of Americans have actually read the full Mueller report. They have lied about the findings for months, and now the Democrats have an opportunity to break through the noise and get video footage of Mueller himself debunking those lies. Mueller has said that his testimony will not go beyond his report, and the DOJ has asked him to do so, but there are several questions that must be answered.
After this hearing, Congress will head into an August recess. If House Democrats want to build the case for impeachment before the Fall, Wednesday is their opportunity to do it.
Here is what we think Congress should ask Robert Mueller to further expose the truth:
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1. If it weren’t for the Office of Legal Counsel’s memos stating a sitting president cannot be indicted, would you have charged Donald Trump with obstruction of justice?
Why ask this: It’s unclear whether Mueller would answer this question, but it is by far the most important. Mueller’s report explained how the Office of Legal Counsel memos prevented him from considering the prospect of indicting President Trump, and reiterated this in his public statement on May 29 of this year: “It explains that under long-standing department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that too is prohibited. The special counsel’s office is part of the Department of Justice and by regulation, it was bound by that Department policy. Charging the president with a crime was, therefore, not an option we could consider.”
2. Of the 11 instances of obstruction outlined in your report, how many do you believe meet the legal qualifications for indictable obstruction of justice and why?
Why ask this: In order for an obstructive act to be an indictable offense, it needs to have corrupt intent established. Mueller’s report outlines several episodes that involved former FBI Director James Comey, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and especially former White House Legal Counsel Don McGahn which depicted compelling evidence of corrupt intent. Hearing Mueller reading out some of those circumstances would be beneficial.
3. Is President Trump’s statement that your report found “no collusion, no obstruction” accurate?
Why ask this: This should get Robert Mueller to say no, and get an answer on video that would directly contradict President Trump’s claims. Mueller will then hopefully be triggered to explain that he did not investigate the concept of collusion. The Mueller report outlined: “In evaluating whether evidence about collective action of multiple individuals constituted a crime, we applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of “collusion.”
4. Did your report exonerate President Trump?
Why ask this: Getting Mueller on the record, and on camera, echoing what he stated in his report about President Trump’s lack of exoneration will be an excellent soundbite to fact-check President Trump’s claims. The Mueller report: “Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
5. Your report contained more than 100 pages of contacts and meetings between the Trump Campaign and Russian nationals, and states that the Trump Campaign was receptive to Russia’s election help. Why didn’t you charge the Trump campaign with a criminal conspiracy?
Why ask this: Mueller outlined in his report that he could not find a “tacit” agreement between Russia and the Trump Campaign. More explanation is necessary.
6. Was your ability to effectively probe a potential criminal conspiracy between the Trump Campaign and Russia impaired by Trump Campaign officials and associated, including Steve Bannon and Erik Prince, who used encrypted apps and deleted messages or those who lied to your investigators, like Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort?
Why ask this: Mueller’s report states that the Trump Campaign official’s “lies materially impaired the investigation of Russian election interference.” It went on to state that individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign “deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption.” We need to know if this is why a conspiracy could not be established.
7. Do you agree with Attorney General William Barr and former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s decision to clear President Trump of obstruction of justice?
Why ask this: After analyzing the evidence for less than 48 hours, Barr and Rosenstein decided to clear President Trump. We know Mueller believed Barr downplayed his findings as outlined in his letter to Barr. It will be interesting to see how Mueller chooses to respond.
8. Did you intend for the Attorney General or Congress to make a determination on your findings?
Why ask this: Mueller’s report asserts that “Congress can permissibly criminalize certain obstructive conduct by the President.” Mueller’s May 29 public statement went further: “The Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.” Getting explicit clarification that he believes the determination should have been left to Congress will be significant.
9. In your May 29 statement at the Department of Justice, you said: “The Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.” What would that process be?
Why ask this: Rather than outright ask Robert Mueller if his report was an impeachment referral and likely get a “no” answer, this question could garner a one-word “Impeachment” answer that will make headlines.
10. Your report outlines: “Manafort briefed Kilimnik on the state of the Trump Campaign and Manafort’s plan to win the election. That briefing encompassed the Campaign’s messaging and its internal polling data. According to Gates, it also included discussion of ‘battleground’ states, which Manafort identified as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota.” Why did former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort give this briefing to suspected Russian Intelligence Operative Konstantin Kilimnik in 2016?
Why ask this: This is one of the most troubling pieces of collusion evidence within the Mueller report. Having this read into the record and Mueller explaining what happened will likely be news to many Americans who did not read the report.
11. What happened at the June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Russian operatives?
Why ask this: As we know, Trump Jr. was receptive to an offer of dirt from the Russian government ahead of this meeting. Mueller describing this exchange in his own words will be important.
12. Your report details how the Trump Campaign planned a communications strategy around Wikileaks releases of Hillary Clinton’s stolen emails. Who was Donald Trump speaking on the phone with in the Summer of 2016 when he was told, as your report writes, “more releases of damaging information would be coming.”
Why ask this: The name of the person on the phone with then-Candidate Trump has been redacted, but this question being asked will inform many Americans. Many speculate that the person on the phone was Roger Stone, given what was outlined in his indictment.
13. What happened on July 27, 2016, after Donald Trump requested Russia hack Hillary Clinton by asking: “Russia if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing”?
Why ask this: The reason this is an important question is because we know what happened. Trump asked Michael Flynn to find these emails and also, Russia was listening. According to Mueller, Russia hacked Clinton’s office for the first time that day.
14. How many Trump Campaign officials shared Russian propaganda on social media and what are their names?
Why ask this: Several individuals shared Russia propaganda on social media. Those people include people like Brad Parscale, Kellyanne Conway, Michael Flynn, Donald Trump Jr., and Donald Trump himself.
15. Why didn’t you subpoena President Trump when he declined an in-person interview?
Why ask this: This is one of the bigger questions that has been left unanswered. President Trump declined to be interviewed by the Special Counsel and Mueller accepted written responses that contained several instances of “no recollection” and “do not recall.”
16. Attorney General William Barr claimed that the OLC memo did not factor into your prosecutorial decision even though it did. Barr claimed you found “no collusion” when you didn’t investigate the concept of collusion. After Barr released his 4-page summary of your report, you sent him a letter that read: “There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.” Do you believe Barr downplayed your findings?
Why ask this: This one is pretty self-explanatory. Highlights Barr’s deception.
17. Did Attorney General William Barr or then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein take any action to limit the scope of your investigation, impede its progress, or order it to be ended early?
Why ask this: There were several threads in Mueller’s investigation that weren’t completed. There was reportedly a new phase of Mueller’s investigation that was set to focus on how Middle Eastern nations sought to influence the Trump Campaign and Trump Administration. What happened to those probes?
18. Why didn’t you probe President Trump’s finances?
Why ask this: Donald Trump’s alleged history of money laundering for Russian oligarchs has been widely documented. Wouldn’t probing Trump’s finances have been vitally important to discovering if President Trump was compromised?
19. What happened to the counterintelligence investigation into whether President Trump is a Russian asset? Will the American people ever see its findings?
Why ask this: In the aftermath of James Comey’s firing, the FBI reportedly launched a counterintelligence investigation into whether President Trump is a Russian asset. What happened to that investigation?
20. Do you believe the American government is adequately prepared for Russia’s interference in 2020?
Why ask this: With President Trump and his allies downplaying the threat of election interference, and openly inviting more interference, this is a vital question to get Congress refocused on the threat.
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