Rantt Rundown: Robert Mueller’s Sights Are Set
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Today, The New York Times published nearly 50 questions that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is seeking to ask President Trump. These questions were provided to President Trump’s lawyers. The questions cover 4 main points of inquiry: questions related to former National Security Adviser, now-felon, Michael Flynn, former FBI Director James Comey (obstruction of justice), Attorney General Jeff Sessions (interference in the independence of the Justice Department, including attempts to fire Mueller), and the Trump campaign’s potential collusion with Russia.
The questions and the accompanying report reveal a wide-ranging probe that is far from complete. A probe that should make President Trump very nervous.
Michael Flynn: Mueller is seeking to explicitly ask Trump whether or not he was aware of Flynn’s December 2016 phone calls with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The very same calls where sanctions were discussed (Flynn later lied to the FBI about it leading to his guilty plea.) Mueller also seeks to essentially ask if he dangled a pardon in front of Flynn:
After the resignations, what efforts were made to reach out to Mr. Flynn about seeking immunity or possible pardon?
Jeff Sessions And DOJ Independence: Mueller has a particular interest in Trump’s frustration with Sessions’ recusal and efforts to interfere in the DOJ. Mueller wants to ask if Trump has discussed whether or not Sessions would protect him. And most damning of all, Mueller is interested in Trump’s efforts to fire him:
What discussions did you have regarding terminating the special counsel, and what did you do when that consideration was reported in January 2018?
The largest areas of interest is pertaining to Comey and potential obstruction of justice with 18 questions total, followed by about 13 questions related to potential collusion with Russia.
James Comey And Obstruction Of Justice: As has been widely reported, Mueller has quite the case for obstruction justice. These questions further bolster that reporting. Mueller is probing how Trump felt about Comey and the rationale behind his firing. Aside from asking about Trump’s infamous admission he fired Comey because of the Russia probe to NBC’s Lester Holt, Mueller is seeking info about the Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Kislyak the day after Trump fired Comey:
What did you mean when you told Russian diplomats on May 10, 2017, that firing Mr. Comey had taken the pressure off?
Remember, that was the day Trump reportedly said “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
Important to note that Mueller states it as fact. No longer reportedly.
Collusion: Mueller is probing Trump’s knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting, Trump’s subsequent efforts to conceal the nature of the meeting, the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant, Trump Tower Moscow, knowledge of DNC hacking and Wikileaks, the Ukraine-Peace deal Felix Sater and Michael Cohen worked on, etc.
It is quite the list.
One question, in particular, stood out regarding former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort:
What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?
It appears unlikely this question would be proposed if Manafort hadn’t reached out for assistance. And regarding whether Trump knew, investigators like Mueller don’t typically ask questions of this nature without already knowing the answer.
As the House Intelligence Committee’s Rep. Adam Schiff notes, Trump’s potential money laundering for Russian oligarchs was notably missing from the questions. We’re reported on this many times.
Will Robert Mueller get the opportunity to ask President Trump these questions? At the moment it seems unlikely.
The more important question is, will it matter? Politico reported:
Prosecutors have already questioned at least two dozen current and former Trump White House aides, plus several more who worked on the 2016 presidential campaign. Mueller also has access to myriad pieces of evidence surrounding the president thanks to wiretaps, congressional testimony and documents submitted both voluntarily and through subpoena.
Also helpful to Mueller as he investigates: Trump’s own comments about the Russia probe gleaned from media reports, the president’s public interviews and his tweets.
- NBC News reported:
White House chief of staff John Kelly has eroded morale in the West Wing in recent months with comments to aides that include insulting the president’s intelligence and casting himself as the savior of the country, according to eight current and former White House officials.
The officials said Kelly portrays himself to Trump administration aides as the lone bulwark against catastrophe, curbing the erratic urges of a president who has a questionable grasp on policy issues and the functions of government. He has referred to Trump as “an idiot” multiple times to underscore his point, according to four officials who say they’ve witnessed the comments.
Kelly called the allegations “total BS.
- Republicans in the House Intelligence Committee prepared their latest attempt to interfere in the Russia probe.
Conservative House allies of President Trump have drafted articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who oversees the ongoing special counsel probe, setting up a possible GOP showdown over the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The document, which was obtained by The Washington Post, underscores the growing chasm between congressional Republican leaders, who have maintained for months that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III should be allowed to proceed, and rank-and-file GOP lawmakers who have repeatedly battled the Justice Department during the past year.
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a thinly veiled, last-ditch effort to pitch the White House to leave the Iran Deal. The White House responded.
- As ABC News reported that “The Trump campaign has spent nearly $228,000 to cover some of the legal expenses for President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen,” Stormy Daniels Lawyer Michael Avenatii predicted Cohen will flip. Daniels also filed a defamation lawsuit over a Trump tweet.
- President Trump and Vice President Pence are expected to speak at the NRA’s annual meeting in Dallas this week. It’s also pretty ironic the event is a gun free zone but the NRA advocates for gun free zones to be eliminated at schools.