What Got Added to Sekulow’s List: Further Obstruction (Including Consideration of Firing Mueller), and “Collusion”

As bmaz noted, the NYT just published the most batshit letter, written on January 29 by John Dowd and Jay Sekulow, trying to dodge testimony for Trump. Here’s what, according to Dowd and Sekulow, Mueller had told them on January 8 he wanted to ask about.

  1. Former National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn — information regarding his contacts with Ambassador Kislyak about sanctions during the transition process;
  2. Lt. Gen. Flynn’s communications with Vice President Michael Pence regarding those contacts;
  3. Lt. Gen. Flynn’s interview with the FBI regarding the same;
  4. Then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates coming to the White House to discuss same;
  5. The President’s meeting on February 14, 2017, with then-Director James Comey;
  6. Any other relevant information regarding former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn;
  7. The President’s awareness of and reaction to investigations by the FBI, the House and the Senate into possible collusion;
  8. The President’s reaction to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation;
  9. The President’s reaction to Former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony on March 20, 2017, before the House Intelligence Committee;
  10. Information related to conversations with intelligence officials generally regarding ongoing investigations;
  11. Information regarding who the President had had conversations with concerning Mr. Comey’s performance;
  12. Whether or not Mr. Comey’s May 3, 2017, testimony lead to his termination;
  13. Information regarding communications with Ambassador Kislyak, Minister Lavrov, and Lester Holt;
  14. The President’s reaction to the appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel;
  15. The President’s interaction with Attorney General Sessions as it relates to the appointment of Special Counsel; and,
  16. The statement of July 8, 2017, concerning Donald Trump, Jr.’s meeting in Trump Tower.

On March 5, Trump’s lawyers had a heated meeting with Mueller’s team, where Mueller floated a subpoena. In the wake of that meeting, Mueller provided a new list of topics of interest, which resulted in the Sekulow list leaked a month ago.

In the wake of the testy March 5 meeting, Mueller’s team agreed to provide the president’s lawyers with more specific information about the subjects that prosecutors wished to discuss with the president. With those details in hand, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow compiled a list of 49 questions that the team believed the president would be asked,

Here’s that list, as presented by the NYT (there are fewer than the 49 described by the NYT because of how they combined questions). I’ve bolded the ones that appear to be entirely new in the later list.

  1.  What did you know about phone calls that Mr. Flynn made with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, in late December 2016?
  2. What was your reaction to news reports on Jan. 12, 2017, and Feb. 8-9, 2017?
  3. What did you know about Sally Yates’s meetings about Mr. Flynn?
  4. How was the decision made to fire Mr. Flynn on Feb. 13, 2017?
  5. After the resignations, what efforts were made to reach out to Mr. Flynn about seeking immunity or possible pardon?
  6. What was your opinion of Mr. Comey during the transition?
  7. What did you think about Mr. Comey’s intelligence briefing on Jan. 6, 2017, about Russian election interference?
  8. What was your reaction to Mr. Comey’s briefing that day about other intelligence matters?
  9. What was the purpose of your Jan. 27, 2017, dinner with Mr. Comey, and what was said?
  10. What was the purpose of your Feb. 14, 2017, meeting with Mr. Comey, and what was said?
  11. What did you know about the F.B.I.’s investigation into Mr. Flynn and Russia in the days leading up to Mr. Comey’s testimony on March 20, 2017?
  12. What did you do in reaction to the March 20 testimony? Describe your contacts with intelligence officials.
  13. What did you think and do in reaction to the news that the special counsel was speaking to Mr. Rogers, Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Coats?
  14. What was the purpose of your calls to Mr. Comey on March 30 and April 11, 2017?
  15. What was the purpose of your April 11, 2017, statement to Maria Bartiromo?
  16. What did you think and do about Mr. Comey’s May 3, 2017, testimony?
  17. Regarding the decision to fire Mr. Comey: When was it made? Why? Who played a role?
  18. What did you mean when you told Russian diplomats on May 10, 2017, that firing Mr. Comey had taken the pressure off?
  19. What did you mean in your interview with Lester Holt about Mr. Comey and Russia?
  20. What was the purpose of your May 12, 2017, tweet?
  21. What did you think about Mr. Comey’s June 8, 2017, testimony regarding Mr. Flynn, and what did you do about it?
  22. What was the purpose of the September and October 2017 statements, including tweets, regarding an investigation of Mr. Comey?
  23. What is the reason for your continued criticism of Mr. Comey and his former deputy, Andrew G. McCabe?
  24. What did you think and do regarding the recusal of Mr. Sessions?
  25. What efforts did you make to try to get him to change his mind?
  26. Did you discuss whether Mr. Sessions would protect you, and reference past attorneys general?
  27. What did you think and what did you do in reaction to the news of the appointment of the special counsel?
  28. Why did you hold Mr. Sessions’s resignation until May 31, 2017, and with whom did you discuss it?
  29. What discussions did you have with Reince Priebus in July 2017 about obtaining the Sessions resignation? With whom did you discuss it?
  30. What discussions did you have regarding terminating the special counsel, and what did you do when that consideration was reported in January 2018?
  31. What was the purpose of your July 2017 criticism of Mr. Sessions?
  32. When did you become aware of the Trump Tower meeting?
  33. What involvement did you have in the communication strategy, including the release of Donald Trump Jr.’s emails?
  34. During a 2013 trip to Russia, what communication and relationships did you have with the Agalarovs and Russian government officials?
  35. What communication did you have with Michael D. Cohen, Felix Sater and others, including foreign nationals, about Russian real estate developments during the campaign?
  36. What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding any meeting with Mr. Putin? Did you discuss it with others?
  37. What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding Russian sanctions?
  38. What involvement did you have concerning platform changes regarding arming Ukraine?
  39. During the campaign, what did you know about Russian hacking, use of social media or other acts aimed at the campaign?
  40. What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?
  41. What did you know about communication between Roger Stone, his associates, Julian Assange or WikiLeaks?
  42. What did you know during the transition about an attempt to establish back-channel communication to Russia, and Jared Kushner’s efforts?
  43. What do you know about a 2017 meeting in Seychelles involving Erik Prince?
  44. What do you know about a Ukrainian peace proposal provided to Mr. Cohen in 2017?

The additions are instructive. The one new bit on Flynn involves Trump’s offer of a pardon.

The new bits on obstruction pertain to ongoing efforts to obstruct the investigation, including consideration of firing Mueller and ongoing efforts to discredit Jim Comey and Andrew McCabe.

But the most interesting are the 14 or so questions on Trump’s involvement in and awareness of election tampering. Given the timing of Rick Gates’ plea on February 23 and the subsequent focus on Roger Stone and Michael Cohen, I’m particularly interested in the addition of questions involving both of them (as well as the question about Manafort’s efforts to get Russia’s help).

Trump would have been far better off having an interview in January. Because the questions are getting harder — and Mueller’s interest in his involvement in “collusion” is getting more apparent.

34 replies
  1. Trip says:

    Those new questions are like, “We know what you did last Summer”. You’re right, they are not about obstruction. Someone is starting to sound less like a subject and more like a bullseye.


  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    As bmaz said earlier, the Dowd and Sekulow letter is two feet of guano and three feet of batshit.

    Obstruction is unrelated to the pardon power.  It is unrelated to the president’s power directly to fire certain personnel in the executive branch.  Both powers can be abused, leading to legal as well as political jeopardy.

    The defense argument, if applied more broadly, would suggest that no prosecutor could be held liable for, say, corruption, bribery, or obstruction related to her own cases because she has the formal power to choose which cases to try, to settle, to dismiss, or never to prosecute.

    Well-heeled defendants and their lawyers might wish for such an arrangement.  They would have the resources to pay the bribes, to return favors, to enable a prosecutor’s re-election.  But no other branch of government, no citizen, and no not so well-heeled defendant would accept it.

    Trump is saying that he could imitate David Lloyd George, WWI British prime minister, who sold titles (knighthoods, lordships) to enrich his party’s coffers in the run-up to the 1918 election.  Instead of XX for a lowly knighthood, and XXXX for an earldom, Trump could sell pardons on a similar sliding scale, and use another for causing “his” prosecutors to drop certain cases or start others.  Pardons for campaign finance law violations, for example, might cost XX, obstruction of justice convictions, XXX, money laundering convictions, XXXX.  The most expensive pardons presumably being the ones dearest to Trump’s heart.

    Trump would argue there’s nothing wrong with that.  He is the “chief law enforcement officer” of the crown, and his constitutional pardon power is not explicitly limited.  He cannot corrupt or obstruct the law because he is the law.

    When you’re done reading their letter, pass the orb and scepter, and remove the peasants from Versailles before he returns.  While Monsieur le Trump is at it, he probably should issue that edict to banish pitchforks.

    • Trip says:

      I’d love someone to shove this letter in McConnell’s face and ask him if he agrees. I’m so sick of the GOP playing dumb, “I haven’t read it, I haven’t seen it”, and so on, and then they are never forced to answer about the fuckery that they endorse, promote and protect. They act like the most uninformed people on the planet. Don’t ask Huckster-b, ask the GOP.

    • Bob Conyers says:

      He’s sees himself as a Renaissance pope, selling indulgences to pay for the upkeep of his Tower.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The first ten amendments to the Constitution are not explicitly restricted.  But courts have invented multiple restrictions for many of them.  Free speech and assembly are heavily restricted by means of permit requirements, use of Orwellian “free speech zones”, and so on.

      The Fourth Amendment requirement that we be free from “unreasonable” search and seizure has been shredded since 9/11 by simply redefining “reasonable” – or failing to redefine it to keep up with technical innovations.

      I don’t see why the pardon power could not be reasonably restricted by, say, holding that using it to obstruct justice is criminal, or that pardoning yourself is an abuse of power justifying impeachment and removal from office.

      • bmaz says:

        Sekulow and Dowd are full of it, I think it already CAN be obstruction of justice to improperly use the pardon power. The pardon may stick for the pardonee, but still think it can constitute obstruction.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          That’s my understanding.  The pardon would be effective for its recipient.  Issuing it for a criminal purpose should generate criminal liability.  There’s no precedent because we’ve never had a Trump as president.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Well done.

      It’s almost like asking who will offer the bettor deal, no?

      [may not be a typo]

  3. Avattoir says:

    Of course, the President of the United States is not above the law, but just as obvious and equally as true is the fact that I, Donald J. Trump, am, so it’s just all your bad luck I’m president.

  4. Bobby Gladd says:

    So, the (speciously) Dowd/Sekulow-asserted authorities of Trump’s implicit tag-line “job (sub) title” of “(Unitary) Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the United States” make it impossible for him to “obstruct himself.”

    Conveniently ignores Article II. Section 3: “he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed”

    Trump University Skool of CON-stitutional Jurisprudence lawyering.

    Can we tally up the precise laws Trump would be UNfaithfully nullifying?

    PS: the time will come when he no longer has these unassailable “job duties.” One vote here for “sealed indictments.”

  5. Rugger9 says:

    The trouble with belching forth so much offal is that there are side effects and unintended consequences for other players, like Junior…  However, since we are talking about the completely complicit GOP Congress, nothing will come of it.


    In addition, they might have admitted to leaking something they then blamed on the OSC:


    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      My theory: DOJ leak to NYT. NYT leak before publication to Trump team. Likely to Rudy. Rudy tells Trump, and his hand is all a-twitter.

      • bmaz says:

        You are so fucking full of shit, your eyes are deep brown. You do not know squat, and blow poop out of your ass relentlessly. Mr. “MetaData”.

  6. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Talking in January — before Gates took his plea — would have been better strategy: you can’t imagine Mueller wanting to double-dip. There’s going to be one face-off, and the question will be when, not if, it moves from the legal domain to the political.

    Why did King Idiot’s lawyers leak this pile of shit now, on the weekend of the Family Business (Subset) Meeting at Camp David? We know that Sekulow is a hack, but Dowd’s name is on that thing as well.

    • arbusto says:

      Multiple choice question.  Match the following with Dowd, Sekulow or Giuliani.

      A.  Bloviator

      B.  Obtuse

      C.  Bellicose

      D.  Past sell by date

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Because it’s about scripting the victimhood and martyrdom of St. Donald.  The purpose is not to persuade the rational, but to convince the faithful that only they can save St. Donald from God’s enemies. For it is he who is to deliver them unto the promised land.

      St. Donald’s next overseas trip – on that new $54 million jet bought by that mega-church preacher – will be to the Red Sea, so that he can part it.

  7. Mitch Neher says:

    EoH said, “The pardon would be effective for its recipient. Issuing it for a criminal purpose should generate criminal liability. There’s no precedent because we’ve never had a Trump as president.”

    Is there a process by which a pardon must be presented in a US Court in order effectively to be honored? Does that process presuppose an indictment against the person granted the pardon? If a POTUS cannot be indicted while in office [?], and if a POTUS can pardon himself or herself while in office [?], then must that POTUS be Impeached and removed from office in order for the validity of the self-pardon to be challenged in a US Court by means of indicting the self-pardoning POTUS?

    Is The U.S. Constitution a passel of paradoxes?

  8. Willis Warren says:

    Trip, can’t reply, so will do so here. The article I linked to was part of the late october/early november facebook blitz to convince Hillary supporters and or libertarians that voting for her would lead to nuclear war. Zerohedge was a major part of that, so was FederalistPapers(project), AnonHQ, Antiwar, and a multitude of other sites.

    These are all sites that had been dormant for a long time, posting random anti colonial (for the US at least) posts and then went full on nuts around the election.

    Facebook hasn’t shut them down or censored them in any way, and doesn’t seem to know about them

    • Trip says:

      Thanks Willis. Some people (which I will leave nameless) are/were still plugging that angle (minus Clinton) of nuclear war, if we don’t satisfy Putin’s demands. We’ve seen them on this site.

  9. M. Sneft says:

    Donald’s certainty that his punk grifting in business somehow can scale up to being POTUS never ceases to amuse me.
    As a civil litigant, his perjurious deposition testimony was irrelevant in the greater scheme of things. It all barely mattered at most because Donald nearly always lost or settled so that there could be NDAs and records sealed. Can’t get that by going to verdict.
    But an interview under oath by the Mueller team — that’s entirely different. (An interview that wouldn’t be under oath would ensure what you always get from Donald: Endless lies, nothing but.)

    • bmaz says:

      The last paragraph is not right, the penalty for lying to federal investigators even when not under oath is effectively the same as for perjury under oath. This is why there was NEVER going to be voluntary interview given.

  10. Rugger9 says:

    Is there any exposure or liability for Dowd and Sekulow for barfing up this 20-page screed? While it is required for lawyers to advocate effectively for their client (look how many death penalty appeals rely on the claim that the attorney did not, plus Avenatti’s point about Clifford’s previous attorney) they still have to be the professional officer of the court and not spew blatant legal non-starters or risk sanctions and referrals to the bar. Then again, we did have the Citizen’s United decision that overturned a century of black-letter law and precedent, so who knows, really? Are there limits?

    The reason this bothers me is that Dowd resigned for a reason (52 days later) and one wonders if the potential for exposure was that reason. OTOH, this missive is already in writing in Mueller’s possession so it’s not clear how running for cover helps him here.

    • bmaz says:

      No exposure for the lawyers that I can see. But they are speaking for Trump, so their conduct is his.

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