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Robert Mueller Has Nearly 50 Questions That He Wants To Ask President Trump; List of Questions by Mueller's Team Leaked to the Media. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired April 30, 2018 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] (JOINED IN PROGRESS)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: "CNN TONIGHT" starts now.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
And we've got more on the major breaking news tonight. On the Russia investigation we're learning Robert Mueller has nearly 50 questions that he wants to ask President Trump. That is according to "The New York Times" which obtain the list of the question on Trump's ties to Russia and whether he obstructed justice. But there is more as well.
Those questions also touch on the president's businesses. His discussions with his fixers, Michael Cohen as well, about a Moscow real estate deal. There's a lot to get to in the next couple of hours here on CNN. We're going to go through all of it for you.
Our Justice Correspondent is Evan Perez, our senior White House Correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, our National Security Analyst is Juliette Kayyem and the former federal prosecutor, Renato Mariotti, also Michael Isikoff, the chief investigative correspondent at Yahoo! News. So, there's a lot of information to get through as I said.
Thank you, all. Good evening to you. Evan, I'm going to start with you. What do we know about these questions and where do they come from?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, these questions originated with the Mueller team about a month ago. They had a meeting with the president's legal team and they essentially laid out about four different groups topic of questions that they wanted to ask the president if he agreed to sit down for an interview with the Robert Mueller investigators.
And these particular questions that "The New York Times" published tonight are essentially note that the president's lawyers took, they made these questions up based on what the Mueller team was asking.
And so, it's a pretty good, I think, representation. We wrote a story about a month ago in which we described the four main topics. But to see the specific questions I think is very intriguing. Because as you mentioned, you know, a lot of it has to do with obstruction of justice but there's a lot of them, about 25 percent of the 50 or so questions that have to do with whether or not the Trump campaign was legally coordinating with Russia.
So what this tells us is that the subject of collusion, despite what you hear from the White House, despite the fact that the president, 15 times a day tweets out that says there was no collusion, it tells us that Robert Mueller is not done with the collusion question.
I'll read a couple of different questions. One of the questions in particular is one in which he says -- in which the question says, what knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?
Now we here so far, Don, we've not heard of any particular connection, you know, the charges that Paul Manafort is facing here in the District of Columbia and in Virginia. They don't have anything to do with Russia, they have to do with his business in Ukraine.
So it's very interesting that the special counsel seems to be focused on this. And it might indicate that they have additional information, of course, Paul Manafort's deputy, Rick Gates is now cooperating with the special counsel.
PEREZ: And another question is about the 2013 nd the Russian government officials? Now the Agaralovs are some very wealthy developers in Russia. And the son of the senior Agalarov is the one who helped put together that Trump meeting, that has now become so controversial become the center really of a lot of questions that the Robert Mueller team has been asking of witnesses who have gone before those investigators, Don.
LEMON: Yes. A number of questions you read they had to do with timing, also the meeting in Trump tower with the attorney.
PEREZ: That's right.
LEMON: So we're going to go through a lot of these questions, so Evan, stand by. Evan has got the questions and our correspondents so we're going to go through them for you and try to figure out what this means for the investigation of the president.
Let's get to Jeff Zeleny at the White House. Jeff, good evening to you. It looks like many of the questions are asking the president about his words, his own words and his tweets.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Don, no question about it. It's almost like a timeline of what happened, you know really day by day or certainly key moment by key moment in the president's own words. There is volumes upon volumes of what the president has said online through interviews, other things and I was struck by.
And some of the questions, one specific one was on May 12, 2017, what did you mean by this? And of course, that's when the president, after he had the meeting with James Comey, he said, look, there are tapes of our conversation. He said, he better hope that -- you know, he said it honestly, there are tapes of our conversation.
So clearly, the special counsel's office wants to ask the president in many certain instances what he was thinking in the moment and how that fits into the bigger piece of the puzzle here. So the president's own words, actions, tweets certainly will be front and center of this. And we've asked the White House for a reaction and comment, we have not heard from them an answer.
But, Don, we do know there is still very much an active consideration discussion with the president to sit down and testify. He has said he would, he would like to, he would like to get it over with. His lawyers have been, like, no so fast. So that is still a question mark here at the White House.
[22:05:06] LEMON: I'm wondering if these questions now being published if that'll make a difference. Stand by, Jeff. Renato, so let's go through some of these questions, OK?
Here's one. They're asking a lot about Michael Flynn, OK? What did you know about phone calls that Mr. Flynn made with the Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in late December of 2016? How was the decision made to fire Mr. Flynn on February 13 of 2017? Talk to me about what's bind these questions.
RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, one thing that could be behind it, Don, is don't forget that President Trump asked James Comey to let Flynn go, to let him go. And so, what really is important is at that point, what did Trump know about Flynn's potential liability. That's one, I think one reason why there may be an interest there. Why -- what did Trump know about what Flynn was doing and when did he know it. That would be one thing that would come to mind.
LEMON: All right. Juliette, here's and there's more, what did you know about Sally Yates meeting about Mr. Flynn after the resignation? What efforts were made to reach out to Mr. Flynn about seeking immunity or possible pardon? Anything striking here? What is Mueller after?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, this is a focus on obstruction of justice. After the fact after he does fires Flynn, were there communications between Trump and Flynn to get Flynn not to talk. Remember now, Flynn is talking and telling us his story. And so the totality of all of these questions is not just obstruction of justice. It just had to be said here.
These questions are jaw dropping because everything is on the table. I mean, it is -- whether it's collusion, cooperation, whether the president's comprised, this whole -- the entirety of these questions, including the ones about Flynn, suggests that Mueller does not believe it's all the coincidence and that, I think is the take away tonight. This is not just an obstruction case, this is still at the core of the finances and the election and potential collusion.
LEMON: OK, Michael Isikoff, Mike, the first question I had when I saw this cross and I read I said who leaked these? Where do these come from? Do you think this was leaked by someone from team Trump?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: Well, look, it's hard to imagine that anybody on Mueller's team leaked them. And given what the obvious impact of this leak report, very -- and I agree with Juliette -- a jaw dropping report, is that -- strengthens the case for those on the president's legal team saying you can't go in for this interview.
And in fact, it's hard to imagine any criminal defense lawyer seeing a list of questions like that who would let his client speak when there would be so much at risk. Because, as everybody's mentioned, these are so broad and so wide-ranging and, you know the likelihood is that it buried in there is -- you know, Mueller is going to know the answers to a lot of these and the president would be exposed to perjury if he lied.
LEMON: Do you think there's -- Michael, do you think they're spooking to the president through the television as so often said from people who are part of his administration?
ISIKOFF: Yes, I think that, you know, one never knows. Part of this has to be people trying to persuade the president by building pressure for him not to cooperate with Mueller. The other thing -- the other take away from this is it makes it crystal clear that this investigation isn't going to end any time soon which is what Rudy Giuliani seems to be suggesting. He could wrap things up in a few weeks, he was talking about obstruction.
But clearly every one of those questions about the president's past, and his business dealings in Russia and his various relationships with various players like the Agaralovs. Every one of those is inextricable interwoven with the question of obstruction. Was there something the president was trying to obstruct to prevent the public and the prosecutors from knowing about? So, Mueller can't wrap up the obstruction issue until he knows the answer to all these other maps.
LEMON: So, Evan, just looking over the questions, and I'm sure you've read them as well, is that can you tell from these questions whether Mueller considers the president a subject of this investigation?
Remember, there was a -- you know he was told that he wasn't a target but he was a subject. Can you tell from these questions?
PEREZ: Well, I think clearly he is a subject. And I think it's very easy for you to go from subject to target, that's the reason why as Mike was just saying, it's so easy and so difficult for -- so difficult for any lawyer to see these questions and think, OK, this is a good idea for you to go in and do this interview.
[22:10:01] Look, I think when we reported on the story about a month ago about the four main groups of topics, and we knew that there were about 50 questions that the team had come up with based on their conversations with the Mueller team, well, we were told the conversations as we were talking to people really made it clear that there was a lot of agitation inside the White House. The legal team, I think they looked at what Mueller was laying out and
they thought, boy, we can't -- we can't do this. And so, this really realizes why there was a lot of agitation. Of course, it was after that John Dowd left the legal team so there's been a lot of change since then.
But Don, this explains a lot of what we were sort of seeing and sensing behind the scenes of a lot of agitation about where this investigation could be headed. And the danger signs that were flashing really before their eyes.
LEMON: Jeff, you're able to -- just from being there -- sort of monitor and maybe understand or predict the mood of the White House or how they're going to respond to this. No response so far because this just broke. But I'm sure this morning or maybe in a tweet tonight we may be hearing something about this.
ZELENY: Certainly possibly. The president was actually having dinner outside the White House earlier this evening at about the time that this was coming in, he was at his hotel of course, just a couple of blocks from here at the White House. But since then it has been very silent around here.
But you just have to -- certainly, I think if anything this does is a reminder, as Evan was saying earlier. The president can say, witch hunt, hoax, this investigation's over as much as he wants, this underscores how it is not. And most of his aides and advisers, in fact, all of them in this building recognize that.
And it seems to me if someone on his side would have leaked these or let them out, it is, you know, a wake-up call if he still wants to and is eager to sit down. I think this certainly makes it looks like, look, this is not at the end. This is not looks like the finish line is right in front of them here. This has a long ways to go.
LEMON: All right. Jeff, thank you very much. Everyone else stick around, we've got a lot more to come on our breaking news tonight. The list of questions Robert Mueller wants to ask President Trump. That's according to "The New York Times".
We're going to talk about all of that, that breaking in "The Times" now we're going to answer -- not answer but ask read to you some of the questions that Mueller wants to ask the president. That and what the special counsel wants to ask about the former FBI Director James Comey as well.
We'll be right back.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: So, we're back with our breaking news tonight. And it's huge news and it might be the best window yet into this Russian investigation.
The special counsel Robert Mueller has a list of nearly 50 questions that he wants to ask President Trump on his ties to Russia, on obstruction of justice, on his business and family and closest advisers.
Back with me now, Evan Perez, Juliette Kayyem, Renato Mariotti, and also Michael Isikoff.
I'm just going to read something from "The New York Times" that sort of sums up what this is about and then I'm going to have questions for you guys.
It says, the opening inquiries appeared to be an attempt to penetrate the president's thinking, to get up the motivation behind some of his most combative Twitter posts and to examine his relationships with his families and closest advisers. They deal chiefly with the president's high profile firings of the FBI director and his first national security adviser. His treatment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a 2016 Trump tower meeting between campaign officials and Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. Juliette, that sums it up.
KAYYEM: Yes, it does. And there's some -- some of the specific questions are phrased really interesting. Now remember, this is a transcript so we don't know the specific questions. But they talk about the Trump's campaign outreach to the Russians, not what we have come to believe which is the Russians tried to penetrate the Trump campaign. I don't think that's an accident and I think the question is, is how aggressive was the Trump campaign.
And as I was saying earlier, you know, we don't know what the verb or the word is, colluded, cooperated, whatever. But this issue is not going away in terms of the campaign. Look, the president, the totality of this, I just want to make this clear, is that the president is in some trouble if he can't answer these in a way that put to rest some of these questions, but we are also in trouble.
Because behind these questions is the Russians, and their capability and success of penetrating a campaign for president of the United States. And nothing has been done to stop them in 2018 or 2020. And we do not know what the Russians will do to keep that fact secret.
And so, this is not just about Trump, it's about us. And it's just -- it's just worth reminding people that this may seem, you know, legalistic, it's actually quite, you know, it's quite, you know, quite existential for us about what's going on.
LEMON: Yes. Let's talk about the questions now. Let's go right to Michael. There's questions about Comey, OK, so I'm going to read it. What was your opinion of Mr. Comey during the transition? What did you think about Mr. Comey's intelligence briefing on January 6th, 2017 about Russian election interference?
What was your reaction to Mr. Comey's briefing that day about other intelligence matters? What was the purpose of your February 14, 2017 meeting with Mr. Comey and what was said? What was the purpose of your January 27, 2017 dinner with Mr. Comey and what was said?
So, the special counsel, Michael, wants answers on why Comey was fired. Question about the dossier and about the loyalty test, about asking Comey to let the investigation into Flynn go. What's your reaction?
ISIKOFF: Yes. I mean, look, that goes squarely to the issue of obstruction. What was on the president's mind when he fired Comey when he began the process of decide to fire Comey which as we've talked about it in "Russian Roulette," the book I have with David Corn out right now, really begins with that January 6th briefing.
This was president-elect Trump at that point, but the intelligence chiefs are briefing him about the Russian interference campaign, they all leave the room except for Comey. Comey gives them the -- tells them about the synopsis of the salacious allegations in the dossier and after that, what Comey didn't know, but which we report about in the book is, the president blows up. He believes its blackmail.
[22:20:00] He believes that Comey is trying to shape him down to let him know that he's got something on the president or the president- elect at that point and that's where the seeds are planted for the firing of Jim Comey.
And it's likely that Mueller already understands that, knows that, and it does lead to questions about everything the White House said publicly about the reasons for firing the FBI director.
LEMON: Evan, I'm wondering, now that these questions are out there can the president seem now argue for him just to reply to these questions on paper? They're out there, he can answer them on paper, he doesn't have to come in and be disposed so to speak?
PEREZ: Well, yes, actually, Don, that's the argument that they are making. And that's why the negotiations are still are ongoing. We don't know by the way whether if Mueller is amenable to that. It seems like it's probably likely.
Because part of the way -- part of the reason why you ask questions that you want to interview someone is because you want to see the body language. You want to see whether or not they are being evasive. You don't want to give them a take-home test and have someone else fill out their answer for them. That's not the purpose of this exercise.
So, I just want to add real quick to what Michael is saying. I think what this sets up, I mean, the question is you asked -- you read just now about Comey, really sets up an interesting clash here, where we know Comey's version of events. You see his -- the memos are now out, he's got this book out.
So we know his version, he's been on TV interviews everywhere. This sets up where, you know, whose version of the truth you're going to believe here, is it Comey's or you're going to believe the presidents? And that's where I think there's so much agitation in the White House that were exactly how that will end up.
LEMON: All right. Renato, another key question here. What did you mean in your interview with Lester Holt about Mr. Comey and Russia? And that's where President Trump told Lester Holt that he was thinking about the Russian investigation when he fired Comey. Let's listen. I'll let you respond. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. 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, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Renato, what's your reaction?
MARIOTTI: Well, clearly many of these questions, Don, are meant to try to pin down the president as to what his intent was when he was firing Comey. Look, you can fire -- the president can fire the FBI director for legitimate reasons, like, for example, he thought he did a bad job. He thought he was not a good FBI director.
But if you're firing the FBI director in order to stop an investigation into you or your friends that is obviously obstruction of justice. And so, all these detailed questions about tweets and conversations and what did he think of Comey before, you know, these meetings and so on. And obviously this question about the interview, they're all meant to try to pin down the president as to what his intent was.
I will tell you, Don, the fact that so many of these questions deal with intent and deal with obstruction, tells me -- and really it's a conclusion I've drawn for sometime is that it's very likely that Mueller is zeroing in on obstruction and believes that Trump has likely obstructed justice.
LEMON: All right. Everyone, stick with me. We got a lot more to come on our breaking news.
A leak list of questions Robert Mueller wants to ask President Trump. What does he want to ask about Attorney General Jeff Sessions? We'll talk about that next.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: We're back with our breaking news tonight, nearly 50 questions Robert Mueller wants to ask the president to determine whether he obstructed justice.
Back with me now, Evan Perez, Juliette Kayyem, Renato Mariotti, and also Michael Isikoff. OK, so, Evan, these questions for you. There are also questions related to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, right.
So, it says, what did you think and do, what did you think and do regarding the recusal of Mr. Sessions? What effort did you make to try to get him to change his mind? Did you discuss whether Mr. Sessions would protect you in reference past attorneys general? What did you think and what did you do in reaction to the news of the appointment of the special counsel? So, Evan, the president has been very clear about how he feels about
Sessions but the special counsel still has a lot to ask him about that.
PEREZ: Right. And Don, he has a public record. I mean, the president has spoken about it. He spoken about how he believe that Eric Holder, the previous attorney general actually did a good job of protecting President Obama and that he sort of wishes that Sessions would have done that for him, that's the insinuation he made.
So I think the special counsel is armed with a lot of the president's own public statements, his tweets, his comments that he's made to his friends, which are then linked to the press. So there's a lot of material to work with.
And look, the fact is that Jeff Sessions had no choice but to recuse himself in this investigation, simply because he played a role in the campaign, he was an active participant in the campaign and the Justice Department rules make it abundantly clear that he had to recuse himself.
The president doesn't buy this but that is the truth. And so he's been mad at the attorney general for basically doing what he had to do. He was required to do under the rules of the Justice Department.
LEMON: Renato, I have to ask you, because when you're dealing with obstruction, I'm not an attorney but that's what I hear from the attorneys here in front here and from the legal folks, that you have to establish intent, correct? What is the intent?
LEMON: And I'm wondering if the president's public statements, his tweets, what he said is that going to come into play. I played the Lester Holt interview. Will that come into play when they're trying to figure out what his intent was behind any of these meetings or questions or any or his actions?
MARIOTTI: No question. No question. So what Mueller has to prove is that the president had corrupt intent. In other words the, intent to unlawfully, you know, interfere with or impede the investigation. And the way you prove as a prosecutor, somebody's intent, obviously you don't have a magic telescope that sees inside their brain.
[22:29:55] So, you look at their words and you look at their actions over a long period of time and you ask a jury to form conclusions about the person's intent from those words and actions. So, for example, why was the president so angry at Jeff Sessions for doing what he was legally required to do by recusing himself? Why did he talk about -- you know, why did he talk about the attorney general protecting him? You know, why, why did he fire James Comey? Why did he tweet about there being tapes during the conversations? All these specific questions that you are -- that you are reading, Don, relate to actions that could be used by a prosecutor to infer that the president was trying to act with the intent to impede the investigation. LEMON: OK, Michael, lot of questions related to the campaign's
coordination with Russia. Questions like this one, when did you become aware of the Trump tower meeting? What involvement did you have in the communication strategy including the release of Donald Trump, Jr.'s e- mails?
During a 2013 trip to Russia, what communication and relationships did you have with the Agalarovs and Russian government officials? What communications did you have with Michael Cohen, Felix Sater, and others, including foreign nationals, about Russian real estate developments during the campaign?
Do these questions show, Michael that collusion and possibly conspiracy are still very much on the possible?
ISIKOFF: Absolutely. I mean, I think that's unquestioned. But you know, look, what's lurking behind everyone of these questions is, what does Mueller know that the Trump team doesn't in given the evidence -- the testimony he's gotten from Michael Flynn, from Rick Gates, from George Papadopoulos. And you know, given that, you know, that makes this so problematic for the president to go into a deposition with this.
And just as an example of what could be lurking out there just in the last few days with the release of the House intelligence committee report. There are data points little nuggets that tell us that fill in some of the blank, including the fact that Michael Flynn, in December 2015, and his son met with Ambassador Kislyak at the ambassador's private residence.
That was the first indication that there was prior conflict between Flynn and Kislyak and raises, you know, a whole host of questions about did they continue to talk during the campaign, not just after the president was elected during the transition.
Similarly, there's e-mail that Flynn sends on July 14th, one week before the WikiLeaks release of the DNC e-mails saying there are cyber activities that have happened and will happen in this election involving nation states and the DNC. That's pretty eyebrow raising e- mail. And remember, Flynn has now cooperated; he's had to tell Mueller everything.
LEMON: OK. Juliette, same question. Conspiracy, a possible conspiracy, collusion still on the possible? Do you get that from these questions?
KAYYEM: Absolutely. So there is a series and not just from everything we've been saying. The fact that the questions are being asked about the election, about real estate deals, about meetings that took place before the elections.
There's a series of questions that if you are not Trump but you know something are going to make you nervous, and that's the one about other co-conspirators. So there's a question about who else knew about your plans about firing Comey. There are specific questions about Jared Kushner whose name is explicitly stated in the question. And so, you know, look, this is a, as I've been saying, this is how a conspiracy unfolds. Everyone gets nervous about everyone else and if in fact there is a conspiracy to either, you know, collude or to cooperate or to undermine an election, each person is going to eventually be out for themselves.
So the whole co-conspirator line of questions in what we just saw tonight are absolutely fascinating and will probably be terrifying to a bunch of people whose been sort of outside our focus lately.
LEMON: Well, what's interesting to me is that, it said what communications did you have with Michael Cohen, Felix Sater, and others, including foreign nationals or Russians real estate developments during the campaign. And then we know two weeks ago his personal attorney's office and home and hotel room were raided by the FBI. So that is factoring into these questions. Talk to me about that, can you, Renato?
MARIOTTI: Well, absolutely. You know, what we don't know, and what's really not in these questions is, what information does Mueller have about some of these other categories? You know, to me, the most interesting thing that I gain from reading these questions, Don, was you noted that all the questions about the obstruction issues and the intent issues are very highly detailed.
[22:35:06] They talk about specific tweets, specific conversations. A lot of this stuff about collusion is very high level and very vague. You know, what did you know about this, what did you know about that, very broad topics. And I find that really interesting.
And what it suggested to me was a lot of this other stuff has been reported by the media at length, you know, all these tweets, and conversations and blow-ups and so on. But what Mueller knows about the Russia trip -- the trip the 2013 trip to Russia, or conversations, you know, between him and Cohen and so on, you know the president really probably doesn't know what Mueller knows about these.
So, I think they kept those very vague and very high-level so they could be more specific later on and not tip their hand to the president's team.
LEMON: Thank you, all. I appreciate it.
We've got a lot more to come tonight on our breaking news. That list of nearly 50 questions that Robert Mueller wants to ask the president and how that could shape the Russia investigation.
[22:39:58] LEMON: Here's our breaking news tonight, special counsel, Robert Mueller has dozens of questions that he wants to ask President Trump to determine if he's obstructed justice and to examine his ties with Russia. That is according to "The New York Times" which obtained the list.
I want to talk about this now with CNN Political Analyst, Patrick Healy, political editor at "The Times," contributor, Frank Bruni, a columnnist for the paper, CNN White House Reporter, Sarah Westwood, and CNN Legal Analyst, Michael Zeldin who was Mueller's special assistant at the Justice Department.
Boy, do I have so many questions for you. Good evening for all of you. But Frank, I want to start, what is your reaction the dozens of questions the special counsel wants to ask the president. What do you think?
FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: When you know, when you read the questions they are exactly the questions we've often asked. You know, I mean, they're exactly the logical questions and they shows that nothing is really off the table. There are questions that pertain to collusion, there are questions that pertain to the obstruction of justice.
And I think they're also a reminder that this investigation will not feel complete unless Robert Mueller has a chance to ask the person at the center of it, Donald Trump some questions. Whether he will get to, it remains to be seen but that he very much wants to and he's making the plans accordingly, I don't think that's a surprise.
LEMON: So before I could -- before I could get to -- do you want to stand by? OK, I'm going to stand you guys by. Sorry. We have more breaking news here. Because I want to bring in now on the phone, Representative Adam Shift whose a ranking member of the House Intel Committee. Congressman Schiff, thank you so much for your reaction to this report. Thank you for coming on and giving your reaction to this report. What do you think?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, you know, I would certainly agree that it's a broad list of questions. And I'm glad it is as extensive as it is, it means that the special counsel has been forced to agree with the White House to limit the scope of his questioning.
There are some things that are notable though that are left off the list that do give me concern. And one is the area that the president has tried to draw a red line around and that is the finances of the Trump organization. I think there ought to be questions about did the Trump organization receive Russian money, was Russian money laundered through his properties? Did Deutsch Bank, did he have knowledge of Deutsch Bank laundering of Russia's money because he was doing so much business with Deutsch Bank?
Those are questions that I think the president ought to be asked that I did not see on the list. There's also questions about whether the NRA was one of those back challenges. There were questions about other back channels that Jared Kushner exploits something for the Russians, the meeting in the Seychelles.
But notably absent from the list was questions about the NRA. So there were a few areas that I think were excluded. What nonetheless what we do see on the list focuses a lot on obstruction of justice, I think for pretty obvious reasons. And a lot of those questions are going to be darn difficult for the president to answer. Particularly, why if the justification was for the firing of James Comey, was this handling the Clinton e-mail investigation, why had he been praising Comey over that previously?
These things are going to be very difficult for the president to explain away, and I can understand his lawyer's reservation about having him talk to special counsel but special counsel needs to insist.
LEMON: But Congressman, there could be questions about that, I'm not assuming that this is the entire list of questions and the exact questions that are going to be asked but those are inquiries that you would like to or at least -- the kinds of inquiries you would like to be touched on?
SCHIFF: Yes. You know, certainly -- you know, the list that was put together looks like a very reasonable ask of the special counsel. Those are all areas where, you know, particularly, you know they shed light on the president's intent behind the firing of James Comey, the degree to which they might have floated pardons over people, his interference in whether Jeff Sessions would recuse himself.
All of that goes to whether he was affirmatively trying to obstruct investigation into his own campaign. So those are, you know, perfectly important appropriate questions to be asked. They were also questions on the collusion issue. There are some questions on the effort to seek business in Russia.
You know, that intriguing question about Paul Manafort, are you aware of any effort by your campaign, including -- and he's the only one he singled out -- Paul Manafort to obtain Russia's assistance? You know, that could mean a few thing, that could be, you know, efforts to by Cambridge Analytica to seek out the stolen Russian e-mails from WikiLeaks, it could be the Roger Stone inquiries, although he merge his own question.
But it also could allude to something that is not in the public eye that Bob Mueller knows, or you know, one other possibility done is that this question is a bit lost in translation because if these questions were obtained from the White House, they're not the questions that's written by Bob Mueller, they are the questions as rewritten as the note taken -- notes taken by the White House lawyer--
LEMON: It's a summation of the questions, the other questions.
SCHIFF: Yes, so it could have been they were asking about Manafort's outreach to Oleg Deripaska, this guy close to the Kremlin, where he's trying to get money from Deripaska and offering information on the campaign.
[22:45:06] So, that question could be garbled or it could that it goes information the special counsel has that he didn't want to elaborate more than he did in that question.
LEMON: I'll ask you a little bit something else. Because this was -- I ask -- I posed this question during the -- my last panel session. And I said a lot of -- there were a lot of questions that relates to the campaign coordination with Russia.
And in that, congressman, business dealings do come out and I'll read it. When did you become aware of the Trump tower meeting? What involvement did you have in the communication strategy including the release of Donald Trump, Jr.'s e-mails? During a 2013 trip to Russia what communication and relationship did you have with the Agalarovs and Russian government officials?
What communications did you have with Michael D. Cohen, Felix Sater, and others, including foreign nationals about Russian real estate developments during the campaign?
That's about business dealings about there. And the question that I asked the panel before was, does it seem to you when you get when you hear the questions like that because the president has been no collusion all the time. Does it appear that a possible obstruction of justice, and possible collusion still on the table?
SCHIFF: Well, certainly. I mean, if the special counsel were at the point where he had reached the conclusion that there was, you know, clearly no evidence of collusion or obstruction of justice that these questions wouldn't be necessary.
But in fact, you know, there is evidence of collusion in the firing of Comey and in this other subject matter areas that the special counsel is asking about and there is evidence of collusion in that meeting in Trump tower and the approach to George Papadopoulos and the Russian previewing of the dissemination of these stolen e-mails in the Trump campaign's, you know, effort to obtain this information.
The president's own son saying he would love to have the help of the Russian government. So, you know, it's perfectly appropriate and deemed necessary for the special counsel to ask about this. We write about a couple of this thing in a minority views we just put out.
LEMON: That's what I wanted to ask you. Did you get to ask the questions that you're reading in "The New York Times", did you get to ask the bulk of the questions to the people you interviewed? I mean, these are some specific to the president but it is the type of things you would have asked during your hearings.
SCHIFF: Yes, but it's also the type of things that witnesses refuse to answer. And you know, the perfect illustration is, you know, the cover-up the Trump tower meeting, the false statements that came out, well this is only about adoptions.
We ask Corey Lewandowski about that, he refused to answer. We asked Don Junior about his conversation with his father where they concocted allegedly this false statement together, he refused to answer the questions. We asked Hope Hicks about it, she refused to answer the question. We asked Steve Bannon about it, he refused.
And the Republicans were more only too happy to take no for an answer. None of them would press the point. So when my Republican colleagues say no collusion they are both ignoring the obvious evidence that's very pubic about collusion, but there were also obscuring the fact that they prevented us from fining out the answer to very important questions about collusion.
And one of the ones we highlight in our report is, in the set-up to that Trump tower meeting there are calls going back and forth between Don Junior and Emin Agalarov, the son of the Russian Donald Trump--
LEMON: You're talking about the block number two?
SCHIFF: The blocked number. The blocked number is a call that takes place -- an incoming call that takes place between two calls, between Don Junior and the son of this Russian oligarch. Now the president used a blocked number during the campaign. And what we wanted to know is, OK who is this call from? Now the president's son claimed not to know, not to remember.
That doesn't seem particularly credible but there's an easy way to find out. We could subpoena the telephone records but the Republicans were unwilling to. They didn't want to find evidence of collusion so they ignored the evidence we found and they made it affirmatively impossible to find out additional facts.
LEMON: Congressman Schiff, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: Fifty questions at least the special counsel wants to ask the president of the United States regarding Russia, possible collusion, campaign interference, election interference. We'll be right back.
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LEMON: We are back now with our breaking news. And I'm back now with my panel Patrick Healy, Frank Bruni, also Sarah Westwood, and Michael Zeldin. Frank with be along in just a minute. But I want to talk to Patrick. You heard, Patrick, what the congressman said. What was your reaction?
PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What stood out the most, Don, was his point about what Bob Mueller may know that is not reflected in these questions. We have Michael Flynn who has pled guilty. We have Papadopoulos. We have Rick Gates. We have people who may give information, including James Comey to Mueller that we don't know. And that creates a real danger for President Trump.
He has these questions, certainly he can prep, his lawyers can prep him for these open-ended questions. But they don't know if President Trump goes into that interview and he starts, as we both know, Don, talking the way he usually talks, which can be a very quickly into exaggerations, into falsehoods, into lies, whether he's going to be ultimately caught out by some piece of information that Bob Mueller knows because Michael Flynn has given him some kind of evidence on this or Rick Gates.
LEMON: Yes. HEALY: It's a very tricky situation for President Trump to go into. And how do you prep President Trump into this kind of situation, Don? I mean, again, you know how he is. He's not someone who sticks to a script. He's someone who can get very proud and very defensive, and he can say things that he wants--
LEMON: That's his personality.
HEALY: He wants -- he wants to. And the reality is the political strategy of this is that if his lawyers are probably arguing, do this in writing, do this in writing, we can get it. But then you catch him out and you say what have you got to hide? Why are you afraid to sit down?
You know, Bill Clinton sat down with Ken Starr. What do you have to hide? And they may be able to, you know, essentially goad him into a very difficult situation.
LEMON: Yes. You talked about the people who pled guilty, George Papadopoulos, Mike Flynn, Rick Gates, and there were also Van der Zwaan and Richard Pineda. But this was part of this Mueller's probe, not specifically connected all of them to the president.
LEMON: It's part of this question.
HEALY: I mean, Michael Flynn ultimately and Rick Gates during the campaign--
HEALY: -- some of these questions.
[22:54:57] LEMON: So Michael, here's the -- I'm curious because those phone records that Adam Schiff just spoke about now wanting to know whether that blocked number might have been the president. Will the special counsel have those records already as part of this investigations or at least access to them?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I would assume that Bob Mueller has subpoenaed all of that and has it.
LEMON: He would know who that blocked number is?
ZELDIN: I would think so. If it's knowable, I would think he would know it, sure. I think that, you know, we don't know whether it's knowable, but if it's knowable, I think Bob Mueller will know it. And we should presuppose that with all of these questions. Bob Mueller has a lot of information.
He's formed an opinion about the sort of the time line or the essential core facts which he believes to be true. And now he's going to ask the president for his opinion about each of them. I don't think this is in any way, shape or form, a perjury trap as
some guests have sort of implied in the sense that they're going to try to catch him up in something. I think these are going to be fair and open-ended questions where the president if he's truthful should have no problem in avoiding any sort of perjury or false statements. He just has to be truthful. So there are lot of -- there are lot of--
LEMON: If he shows truth then there's no perjury to worry about.
ZELDIN: And you know, there's some questions here, though, that are complicated. There's a question here, Don, about sanction, whether there was any discussions with Russians about sanctions.
LEMON: I'm going to talk to -- I'm going to get--
ZELDIN: That's a quid pro quo theory.
LEMON: I'm going to get to all of that. But I need to get to Sarah in before I have to get to the top of the hour.
ZELDIN: OK. 2 LEMON: What's the biggest question you have for the White House tonight?
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, I think look, the big question is whether President Trump is going to sit down and answer these questions in person, make himself available for a long period of time to address all of them, or whether they're going to try to funnel the president's answers into some kind of written response.
Obviously that's the approach that his lawyers would prefer to minimize his legal exposure. We don't know how aggressively the Mueller team is going to try to push to get the president to sit down with the special counsel.
So it will be interesting to see whether the legal team feels with these questions in hand they can prepare the president adequately, or if they're still going to push to keep him away from that sit down interview at all cost, even if they know walking through the door what it is Mueller is going to be asking the president.
LEMON: Thank you, all. Listen, I'm happy that you guys sat here and we had the interview with Adam Schiff and I cut your time short. But I appreciate you coming in and of course, breaking news, it's how these things go.
HEALY: Thanks, Don. LEMON: Thank you so much.
When we come back, much, much more on the breaking news that special counsel Robert Mueller has close to 50 questions he wants to ask the president. That list of questions leaked tonight.
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