WASHINGTON — President Trump on Tuesday said it was “disgraceful” that questions the special counsel would like to ask him were publicly disclosed, and he incorrectly noted that there were no questions about collusion. The president also said collusion was a “phony” crime.
While Mr. Trump is right that the word “collusion” is not included in the questions, the nature of some of the inquiries directly addresses the concept of collusion with the Russians.
In an early morning Twitter post, Mr. Trump responded to a report by The New York Times on Monday that detailed the more than 40 questions the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, would like to ask Mr. Trump regarding the ongoing investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The special counsel investigation is also looking into possible coordination with some of Mr. Trump’s associates and whether Mr. Trump has obstructed justice to interfere with the inquiry.
The questions, obtained by The Times, came from a person outside of Mr. Trump’s legal team and appear to seek answers to Mr. Trump’s motivations behind some of his tweets, his thinking and his relationships with close advisers. The special counsel also wants to question the president about the firings of his first national security adviser and the F.B.I. director, which came early in his administration.
In a second tweet about the inquiries, Mr. Trump said that it “would seem very hard” to obstruct justice if there was never a crime, and he repeated his claim that the inquiry is a “witch hunt.”
A guilty verdict is not required for there to be obstruction of justice. According to federal laws, justice can be obstructed when someone knowingly interferes with an ongoing investigation. However, a longstanding Justice Department legal finding says that sitting presidents cannot be charged with a crime while they are in office.
Mr. Mueller met last week with Mr. Trump’s new lawyer in the investigation, Rudolph W. Giuliani, a former United States attorney and longtime friend of the president. Mr. Giuliani said he was trying to determine whether Mr. Mueller and his team were going to be “truly objective.”
The special counsel has wanted to question Mr. Trump for months, and the president has at times said he would like to be interviewed as a way to bring the sprawling inquiry to a close. Since Mr. Mueller’s appointment last year, Mr. Trump has considered firing him, according to people familiar with his thinking. Congress is considering legislation that would protect Mr. Mueller’s appointment.