American Opinion: Under oath or not, Trump owes the country answers
It is unclear who leaked a list of questions that Special Counsel Robert Mueller wants to ask President Donald Trump. One possibility is that someone is seeking to ensure that, whatever happens to Mueller's investigation, the president is forced to confront them. If so, we are in agreement: Under oath or not, Trump owes the country answers.
The leaked questions, which Mueller discussed with Trump's lawyers, hint that the special counsel has uncovered untoward behavior on the part of close Trump confidants that is not publicly known.
One asks: "What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?" Singling out Manafort suggests that Trump's former campaign manager may have had contacts with Russian officials that have gone unreported.
Other questions hint at elements of a possible obstruction-of-justice charge. "What discussions did you have regarding terminating the special counsel?" asks one. "What did you think and do in reaction to the news that the special counsel was speaking to Mr. Rogers, Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Coats?" poses another, referring to three top intelligence officials. These questions suggest that Trump may have done more than send nasty tweets in reaction to Mueller's probe. The New York Times has already reported that the president moved to fire the special counsel, only to be restrained by staff. Has he entertained doing more to foil the probe?
"How was the decision made to fire Mr. Flynn on Feb. 13, 2017?" yet another question reads. "What efforts were made to reach out to Mr. Flynn about seeking immunity or possible pardon?"
Michael Flynn, Trump's first national security adviser, lied to the FBI. Did Trump know about Flynn's lying and try to cover it up?
As The Washington Post points out, if Trump knew about the lying and then pressed then-FBI Director James Comey to let Flynn go, it might suggest obstruction. So might pressuring Flynn not to cooperate.
Mueller also would like to know more about Trump's own Russia connections. "During a 2013 trip to Russia, what communication and relationships did you have with the Agalarovs and Russian government officials?" one question reads. "What communication did you have with Michael D. Cohen, Felix Sater and others, including foreign nationals, about Russian real estate developments during the campaign?"
The president brought to the Oval Office a sprawling web of relationships and conflicts of interest from his business days. The extent of those connections is unclear, in part because Trump has not revealed detailed information about his business and personal finances. Perhaps Mueller knows more - or is just as underinformed as the rest of the country.
The latest leak underscores that Mueller's probe is examining issues of deep public significance on which there is too little public information. Yet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., opposes a bill protecting the special counsel from Trump. Meantime, in the House, Freedom Caucus members have drafted articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Mueller's boss. Republicans should not be allowed to stifle the Russia investigation. If Trump wants to speed its conclusion, he should step forward and answer Mueller's questions.