News & Politics

Trump's Team Is Finally Answering Robert Mueller's Questions — Getting to the Heart of the Russian Collusion Probe: Report

For now, Mueller has accommodated a highly unusual request from Trump's team.

Photo Credit: The White House

On Monday, CNN reported that President Donald Trump's legal team is preparing responses to written questions submitted by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the Russia investigation:

The questions are focused on matters related to the investigation of possible collusion between Trump associates and Russians seeking to meddle in the 2016 election, the sources said. Trump's lawyers are preparing written responses, in part relying on documents previously provided to the special counsel, the sources said.

"We are in continuing discussions with the special counsel and we do not comment on those discussions," said Trump attorney Jay Sekulow.

There may be more rounds of questions after the first answers are returned. The special counsel had insisted that there be a chance for follow-up questions as well. But after a prolonged back-and-forth over months, the two sides agreed to start with a first round of questions.

Additionally, the two sides have still not come to agreement on whether the President will be interviewed in person by investigators who are also probing whether Trump obstructed justice by firing FBI Director James Comey.

The Trump team's demand to be able to answer questions in writing was in itself a highly unusual move for Mueller's prosecutors to accommordate. When Rudy Giuliani first suggested this, there was speculation that it might have simply been a bluff.

"Typically prosecutors do *not* send written questions to a subject in lieu of an interview. The value of obtaining written answers is limited for several reasons. For one thing, they can be prepared by attorneys and carefully worded to be evasive, vague, or misleading," tweeted former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti. "That said, this entire situation is highly unusual. Trump is the subject of a criminal investigation, which means he has potential criminal liability. Usually defense attorneys would not let a subject of a criminal investigation be interviewed by prosecutors."

"So what can we glean from the decision to ask written questions on collusion while negotiations are pending regarding a sit-down interview on other topics?" Mariotti continued. "One obvious implication is that Mueller is far enough along on collusion to pose questions to Trump." He added that Mueller probably settled for written questions either because he thinks Trump does not have much to add to the investigation, or he thinks that Trump could use the powers of his office to obstruct a subpoena for anything more substantial.

Everything about Mueller's intentions at this point are still speculative. But he is clearly getting closer to making a determination about Trump's role in Russian interference with the 2016 election — and to getting some answers for the American people.

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Matthew Chapman is a video game designer, science fiction author, and political reporter from Austin, TX. Follow him on Twitter @fawfulfan.