Russia investigation: leaked questions reveal what Mueller wants to ask Trump

The special counsel Robert Mueller recently supplied Trump’s lawyers with 10 pages of questions.

Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the US election, wants to ask Donald Trump about contact between his former election campaign manager Paul Manafort and Russia, the New York Times reported on Monday.

The paper said it had obtained a list of nearly 50 questions that Mueller, investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, wants to put to the US president. More than half relate to potential obstruction of justice.

“What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?” is one of the more dramatic questions published by the Times.

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The pointed reference to Manafort breaks tantalising new ground, since there was no previous evidence linking him to outreach to Moscow. Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution thinktank in Washington, tweeted: “This is very interesting – strong evidence that there are still collusion threads that are not yet public.”

Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, pleaded not guilty last October to a 12-count indictment accusing them of conspiring to defraud the US by laundering $30m from their work for a Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine.

Quick guide

Paul Manafort Ukraine connections: who’s who?

Show Hide Paul Manafort

Lobbyist and Trump campaign manager. Manafort began work in 2005 for Ukraine’s Party of Regions, led by Viktor Yanukovych. He helped Yanukovych win the country’s 2010 presidential vote and approved a secret media operation to discredit Yanukovych’s rival Yulia Tymoshenko. Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating alleged Trump-Russia collusion, has indicted Manafort on multiple counts. He denies wrongdoing.

Rick Gates

Manafort’s righthand man. Gates worked for Yanukovych, and served in 2016 as Trump’s deputy campaign manager and deputy chair of Trump’s inaugural committee. Gates took part in the anti-Tymoshenko operation and boasted of success in the US media. In February he admitted lying to the FBI and agreed to cooperate with Mueller. He and Manafort are accused of laundering cash from their Ukraine activities, and hiding it in offshore accounts.

Alan Friedman

Journalist, writer and Italy-based lobbyist. Friedman masterminded a social media-led project designed to undermine Tymoshenko in key western countries, including the US, UK, France and Germany. Manafort approved the project. It included conventional outreach to newspapers and “black operations”. Friedman denies wrongdoing and says his role was that of a “PR guy”.

Viktor Yanukovych

Ukraine’s former president and prime minister. After winning his country’s 2010 election, Yanukovych imprisoned his defeated rival Yulia Tymoshenko. Her case prompted criticism from the Obama administration and EU. His government then funded various anti-Tymoshenko strategies, including a VIP lobbying operation with hired EU ex-politicians. Yanukovych fled to Russia in 2014 following anti-government protests.

Serhiy Lyovochkin

Yanukovych’s chief of staff, referred to in Friedman’s documents as “SL”. Manafort reported to Lyovochkin on sensitive operations. Lyovochkin in turn briefed Yanukovych and handled payments, sources in Kiev say. Lyovochkin declined to comment.

Konstantin Kilimnik

A Russian national who headed Manafort’s office in Kiev. According to Mueller’s latest indictment, the FBI assesses that Kilminik is connected to Russian military intelligence. Kilimnik served as Manafort’s translator and worked with him closely.

Yulia Tymoshenko

Ukraine’s first female prime minister. Tymoshenko co-led the pro-western 2004 Orange Revolution. After two stints as prime minister, she lost the 2010 presidential election to Yanukovych. Tymoshenko was arrested and detained in 2011 on what she and the international community called politically motivated charges. She got out of jail in 2014.

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Mueller recently supplied Trump’s lawyers with 10 pages of questions. They offer a dramatic insight into the special counsel’s mind and make clear that Trump is a subject, not a mere witness, in the investigation. It is not yet known whether the president will agree to be interviewed.

Trump responded by Twitter on Tuesday, complaining about the leaking of the questions and claiming falsely there were “No questions on Collusion”. He added: “Oh, I see … you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed, and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information. Nice!”

He tweeted later: “It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened! Witch Hunt!”

One batch of questions relates to alleged coordination between the Trump election campaign and Moscow. Donald Trump Jr’s June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York with a Russian lawyer who promised damaging information about rival Hillary Clinton is…

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