SEVERE WX : Winter Weather Advisory View Alerts

Trump slams leak of potential Mueller questions

The New York Times obtained dozens of questions the Mueller team wants to ask Trump, inspiring a new presidential Twitter rant.

Posted: May 2, 2018 11:28 AM
Updated: May 2, 2018 11:43 AM

Much is being made of the leaked topic areas relating to Robert Mueller's impending testimonial showdown with President Donald Trump. Having worked for 13 years as a federal prosecutor in the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, I can report that the reasons why the questions, crafted by the Trump legal team after consultation with the special counsel's office, were leaked are far more interesting than the leaked information itself.

First, the leaked information: In complex criminal cases, it is simply not unusual for prosecutors to disclose information or evidence to a target or subject of an investigation; it is called a "reverse proffer." Through such disclosures, prosecutors seek to advance the government's case. For example, oftentimes, prosecutors disclose specific incriminating evidence against a target or subject in an effort to flip that person against higher level members of a conspiracy. Prosecutors essentially lay out key evidence and say, "We got you; it's time to cut a deal."

In this case, Mueller's disclosure served a different prosecutorial purpose. By providing the general topic areas to the President's lawyers, Mueller short-circuited a lengthy court battle, which he would have ultimately lost, without giving away anything important about his investigation.

Months ago, Trump's lawyers likely informed Mueller that the President needed to consider whether to take legal action to restrict Mueller's questioning based on executive privilege, the Fifth Amendment, or other grounds. To do so, the President required an understanding of Mueller's topic areas.

While Mueller could have refused such a request, a federal judge would likely have required Mueller to disclose enough information for the President's lawyers to make those important legal determinations. It was entirely in Mueller's interest to voluntarily provide the information to avoid protracted litigation, which would have only delayed the opportunity to question the President.

Not only were the disclosures fairly routine, but they were also done in such a way as to provide the President and his lawyers virtually no visibility into the actual questions Mueller's team intends to ask the President. Based on the questions published by The New York Times, Mueller's topic areas were taken, almost literally, from headlines in any leading publication or cable news show during the last year.

Is there any doubt as to the President's answer to the question: What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign? My guess as to the President's answer: Nothing.

The dozens of topic areas posed by Mueller are barely the tip of the iceberg. Mueller's team will have hundreds, if not thousands, of follow-up questions based on emails, text messages, bank records, and statements from cooperators, much of which is entirely unknown to the President and his lawyers. No doubt Mueller is holding back pieces of information that could surprise the President and increase the likelihood of damaging admissions. And, the President should without question expect multiple days of questioning. This is not a two-hour Stormy Daniels deposition.

On to the more interesting point: why the information leaked. The President's lawyers likely believe, correctly so, that the President will never be criminally indicted while in office. A sitting president has never been charged with a crime, and there are substantial constitutional hurdles to doing so. Instead, the President's lawyers likely believe the ultimate battle will take place in Congress through impeachment proceedings.

By pre-emptively leaking Mueller's topic areas, the President's team accomplishes several related goals: (1) The President has an opportunity to publicly attack the topic areas and craft his own counter-narrative; (2) With the passage of time, Congress and the American people may become numb to the issues before Mueller refers the matter to Congress; and (3) The wind is taken out of Mueller's sails and of any potential report he makes to Congress.

A common defense strategy in routine criminal cases is to "front" bad facts or information to the jury, so as to control the message and spin the discussion in a way that is most favorable to the defense. Because the audience in impeachment proceedings is Congress and the American people, "fronting" the information in this case means releasing it to the public.

Rudy Giuliani's hiring fits squarely into this strategy. Giuliani has not practiced as a criminal defense lawyer for years. But impeachment proceedings are entirely a political process, and Giuliani is a master at political maneuvering, including catering to the President's base and to Republican members of Congress.

Trump's endgame is likely focused on the 34 Republican senators he will need to stave off removal from office if impeachment articles are issued by the House of Representatives.

The Constitution requires the vote of two-thirds of the Senate to remove a president. When President Richard Nixon was informed that no more than 15 Republican senators still supported him after the Watergate revelations, making him vulnerable to removal from office, he resigned.

By hiring Giuliani, President Trump is trying to best position himself with the only people who ultimately matter in this case: Republican senators who will stick by him to the end and save his presidency.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 611039

Reported Deaths: 9716
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion844351336
Lake45508685
Allen32891552
Hamilton29546315
St. Joseph27449381
Elkhart24440345
Vanderburgh19513250
Tippecanoe18043140
Johnson15140295
Porter14865169
Hendricks14440248
Madison11009222
Vigo10769181
Clark10731144
Monroe9424113
Delaware9152134
LaPorte9103164
Howard8268144
Kosciusko808983
Warrick676599
Hancock6741104
Bartholomew6523100
Floyd6469110
Wayne6157162
Grant6011116
Dubois556980
Boone554668
Morgan545795
Henry509764
Marshall505384
Cass485264
Dearborn483245
Noble474059
Jackson426747
Shelby419581
Lawrence392980
Clinton374243
Gibson372559
Harrison350945
DeKalb348264
Montgomery346554
Knox335839
Miami323044
Steuben314545
Whitley309726
Wabash304551
Adams302136
Ripley300046
Putnam297850
Huntington293159
Jasper290534
White274143
Daviess271274
Jefferson264738
Decatur248983
Fayette247848
Greene241162
Posey240328
Wells236451
LaGrange229662
Scott225739
Clay223532
Randolph214948
Jennings199336
Sullivan192933
Spencer192422
Washington187523
Fountain184627
Starke175643
Jay168223
Owen166837
Fulton164230
Orange160835
Carroll159115
Rush155818
Perry155229
Vermillion149334
Franklin149033
Tipton133033
Parke13088
Pike118226
Blackford111422
Pulaski97337
Newton91721
Brown88235
Benton86910
Crawford8069
Martin74413
Warren6857
Switzerland6665
Union6287
Ohio4957
Unassigned0376

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 864322

Reported Deaths: 10711
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin101705707
Cuyahoga860661145
Hamilton64392448
Montgomery43309418
Summit35063761
Lucas31500625
Butler31128232
Stark25933435
Warren19746141
Lorain19165223
Mahoning17383338
Lake16178154
Clermont16057111
Delaware1445479
Licking13274137
Fairfield1287781
Trumbull12861316
Greene12114139
Medina11666168
Clark10995265
Wood10407158
Allen9945126
Portage9382109
Miami921073
Richland9186118
Marion7467113
Tuscarawas7410182
Columbiana7356124
Pickaway728450
Wayne7080171
Muskingum705241
Erie6188129
Hancock554390
Ross5532100
Scioto541664
Geauga513555
Darke471092
Lawrence457958
Ashtabula454673
Union454628
Sandusky438562
Mercer434489
Seneca431566
Huron430041
Auglaize423064
Shelby421922
Jefferson420569
Belmont417740
Washington391840
Athens38129
Putnam376275
Madison356529
Knox354422
Ashland347438
Fulton339343
Defiance332286
Crawford323874
Preble321437
Brown313921
Logan309132
Ottawa294943
Clinton290743
Williams279467
Highland276718
Jackson265345
Guernsey256326
Champaign252628
Fayette237330
Morrow23334
Perry232018
Holmes225674
Henry220149
Hardin214033
Coshocton205722
Van Wert202645
Gallia198826
Wyandot196151
Pike177417
Adams176915
Hocking172624
Carroll156216
Paulding144721
Noble120740
Meigs109024
Monroe101032
Harrison89421
Morgan83430
Vinton70813
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
29° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 23°
Angola
Cloudy
21° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 21°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 27°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
29° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 23°
Lima
Cloudy
28° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 21°
Dry start to Monday, snow/freezing rain moves in late
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events