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Washington Wrap: What Mueller Might Ask the President

Omri Nahmias

If Mueller gets to grill Trump, these questions spell trouble

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

 Mishpacha image


S pecial counsel Robert Mueller reportedly wants to question President Trump over his decision to fire former national security advisor Michael Flynn and FBI Director James Comey. 

Though the contours of that interview are still being negotiated by both sides, some kind of confrontation now seems inevitable, either in person or in writing, or both.

We asked Peter M. Shane, a professor of constitutional and administrative law at Ohio State University with a specialty in separation-of-powers law, about what kind of questions Mueller might ask the president.

“If I were Robert Mueller, the first question I’d ask would be, ‘When did you become aware of the plan for Messrs. Trump Jr., Kushner, and Manafort to meet at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and several others with connections to Russia?’ The importance of this question lies with its relevance to possible prosecutions of Trump Jr. and Kushner for conspiracy to violate either campaign finance laws or the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.”

After that, Shane said he would expect Mueller to question Trump about the firing of James Comey. It was that episode that most clearly raised the possibility of obstruction of justice. Shane said he would ask the president two questions: “Did you order or in any way encourage then-FBI Director James Comey on or about February 14, 2017, to end the FBI’s investigation of Michael Flynn, who had just resigned as your national security advisor? And the second would be: On May 11, 2017, you stated in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt that ‘I was going to fire Comey... And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.’ Please explain the connection between the FBI’s investigation of ‘the Russia thing’ and your decision to fire Mr. Comey.”

Shane said both questions might prove obstruction of justice if it can be shown that Trump was attempting to disrupt Comey’s investigation.

Lastly, Professor Shane suggests that e-mails leaked from the Democratic National Committee might come up during a Mueller-Trump interview. One question might be: “Did you, or to your knowledge, did any member of your campaign, communicate privately to any Russian national that you would look favorably on surreptitious Russian efforts to acquire and make public any e-mail correspondence involving Hillary Clinton, John Podesta, the DNC, or anyone involved in the Clinton campaign?” Shane said the question could be relevant if Mueller were to pursue charges of conspiracy to violate either campaign finance laws or the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

There is no date set yet for a Trump-Mueller sit-down.  


Democrats Throw Lifeline to UNRWA

Last week, 102 congressmen, all Democrats, sent a letter to President Trump urging him to reconsider his decision to cut funding to UNRWA, the UN agency that provides essential services to Palestinians. Notably, the letter was sent with the encouragement of the left-wing J Street lobby, which called the letter “a welcome signal that Members of Congress stand ready to push back against the disastrous foreign policies of the Trump administration in the Middle East.” One hundred two Democrats is more than half of the House Democratic Caucus.

If you’re wondering how many Republicans signed the letter, the answer is — zero.

Though the letter will not likely sway President Trump to change course, it does illustrate the extent of polarization between Democrats and Republicans vis-a-vis Israel. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 698)

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