U.S. President Donald Trump fired new broadsides Tuesday at the criminal investigation into his 2016 election campaign’s links to Russia and his White House actions.
The U.S. leader derided special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, said it was “disgraceful” that more than four dozen questions investigators want to ask Trump were leaked in a The New York Times story and contended that it would be “very hard” to obstruct the probe if, as he says, there was no collusion with Russia to help him win the election.
The Times report said Mueller’s team wants to probe Trump’s thinking about issues that occurred during the campaign, in the nearly three months between the election and his assuming power in January 2017 and during his 15 months in office.
The questions include ones about Trump’s motivation behind some of his most incendiary comments on Twitter, where he often attacks the investigation and political opponents, but most more broadly focus on allegations Trump has obstructed justice by trying to thwart Mueller’s probe.
Firing of James Comey
The investigators want to explore Trump’s thinking in firing former FBI director James Comey a year ago while he was leading the Russia probe. Mueller’s team also has questions about Comey’s claim that Trump asked him to end his probe of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, whom Trump had also ousted and has since pleaded guilty to lying to Mueller’s investigators about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to Washington.
The questions show that Mueller also wants to know when Trump knew about a middle-of-the-campaign meeting at his Trump Tower headquarters in New York arranged by his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., with a Russian lawyer on the pretense that she would offer the campaign incriminating material on Trump’s opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton. The younger Trump says the attorney had no such political dirt on Clinton. But news accounts charge when news of the meeting surfaced months later, President Trump played a role in writing a misleading characterization of the June 2016 meeting.
In addition, Mueller has questions about Trump’s business affairs, especially possible deals linked to Russia, and what happened on Trump’s 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant he owned at the time. A former British intelligence official, Christopher Steele, compiled a dossier on the trip, with uncorroborated, anonymous allegations Trump cavorted with prostitutes in a hotel room, which Trump has denied.
Whether Mueller and his team will actually get to ask Trump any questions is an open question. The president at various times has said he wants to answer Mueller’s inquiries, but some of his defense lawyers have advised against it, fearing that Trump, who is often prone to exaggerations or outright falsehoods, could get trapped by the questioning.
Trump’s attorneys have discussed the possibility of an interview with the prosecutors, but no agreement has been reached.
In one of his Tuesday tweets, Trump said, “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!”
Later, he contended, “It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened! Witch Hunt!”