“What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign to Russia?”
Developments on Day 466 of the Trump Administration:
Special Counsel Ready to Query Trump Over Russia, Obstruction of Justice, and Business Matters
Special Robert Mueller, leading the Trump-Russia investigation, has a list of at least four dozen questions for Donald Trump, including on the links to Moscow and the President’s possible obstruction of justice.
The open-ended questions focus on Trump’s firings of FBI Director James Comey, in an unsuccessful attempt to halt the inquiry, and of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn over contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak; the treatment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, including criticism after he recused himself from overseeing the investigation because of his own meetings with Kislyak; and a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between three Kremlin-linked envoys and Donald Trump Jr., Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and campaign manager Paul Manafort to discuss provision of material damaging Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Mueller also inquires about Trump’s businesses, including discussions with personal lawyer Michael Cohen about a Moscow real estate deal. Trump is asked he knew of any attempt by Kushner to set up a back channel to Russia during the transition after the November 2016 election, and of contacts with Roger Stone, a long-time advisor who claimed inside information about the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s aides. Another question is on Trump’s 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant, where he allegedly was compromised by the Russians as he partied with prostitutes in the Ritz Carlton Hotel.
Questions about links with Moscow include “What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?” Mueller asks if Trump had any discussions during the campaign about any meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and whether he spoke to others about US sanctions against Russia.
In another line of inquiry about obstruction of justice, Mueller asks about his own post and Trump’s consideration of removing him: “What consideration and discussions did you have regarding terminating the Special Counsel in June of 2017?” and “What did you think and do in reaction to Jan. 25, 2018 story about the termination of the Special Counsel and [White House lawyer] Don McGahn backing you off the termination?”
Mueller has sought for months to question Trump. The President has said he is “100%” ready, but his lawyers are divided, with concern that Trump could provide false statements or easily become distracted.
In March, after weeks of negotiations, Mueller’s team sent the questions to another Trump lawyer, John Dowd. The tone and detail bolstered Dowd’s view that Trump should not agree to an interview. Trump held firm, and Dowd resigned 10 days later, assessing that his advice was being ignored.
Trump’s new lawyer in the investigation, Rudy Giuliani, met with Mr. Mueller last week and said he was trying to determine whether the Special Counsel and his staff were going to be “truly objective”.
Trump Allies in Congress Draft Impeachment Articles v. Deputy Attorney General
In a last line of defense for Donald Trump in the Russia inquiry, House Republicans have drafted articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the investigation.
Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, led by Trump confidant Mark Meadows of North Carolina, after pressure on Rosenstein failed to curb the Justice Department’s pursuit of the inquiry.
Meadows said on Monday that the one-page documen is “a last resort option, if the Department of Justice fails to respond” to requests for more information: “My frustrations about their inability to respond to simple requests could warrant further action.”
Trump’s House allies have sought information both to get a sense of the extent of the investigation and to pursue diversionary issues, such as blame of the FBI and Justice Department and of Hillary Clinton’s campaign over the controversy around Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The last federal official impeached by the House was federal judge G. Thomas Porteous, who was convicted by the Senate in 2010 on bribery allegations.
White House Extends EU Tariff Waivers for 30 Days
Averting a showdown with the European Union — for now — the Trump administration extends waivers on steel and aluminum tariffs for 30 days.
The EU and its members had firmly protested the 25% steel duty and 10% aluminum tariff, threatening retaliation if the waiver was not extended. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, one of the leading steel exporters to the US, pressed the case last week; however, there was uncertainty even last weekend whether an unpredictable Donald Trump — who criticized the World Trade Organization as Merkel stood alongside him — would proceed with the tariffs despite international opposition and from sections of the US business and financial community.
Waivers were also extended for Canada and Mexico. The proposed tariffs, hurriedly imposed by Trump in early March, were likely to have violated the terms of the North American Free Trade Area.
The administration said on Monday that it has reached initial agreements with Argentina, Australia, and Brazil so they can also avoid the tariffs.