Two Exceptions to Trump’s “Do Not Recall” Responses: A Limited Answer on an Assange Pardon and a Non-Answer on Sanctions Relief

With few exceptions, the questions Mueller posed to Trump were questions I expected: his awareness of the June 9 meeting,  the Russian hacking and Stone’s attempts to optimize the release of stolen emails, the Trump Tower Moscow deal,  Manafort’s sharing of polling data and the platform on sanctions relief, and Trump’s role in Flynn’s calls with Sergey Kislyak.

One question I did not expect was about whether Trump attended the World Chess Championship on November 10, 2016; the report makes it clear there were allegations that Kirill Dmitriev made a last minute decision to attend it to meet with Trump, though Trump denies he attended. Notably, by answering, Trump reflected a willingness to answer a question about the transition period.

One question I did not expect, however, pertained to a pardon for Julian Assange.

Did you have any discussions prior to January 20, 2017, regarding a potential pardon or other action to benefit Julian Assange? If yes, describe who you had the discussion(s) with, when, and the content of the discussion(s).

As with most of the questions, Trump answered with a “do not recall” answer.

I do not recall having had any discussion during the campaign regarding a pardon or action to benefit Julian Assange.

Except that (as he did on some other questions that largely pertained solely to election period activities), he specifically limited his answer to the campaign period. He basically refused to answer regarding any discussion of a pardon during the transition. That’s particularly interesting for two reasons.

In the report’s discussion of Don Jr’s DMs with WikiLeaks, they don’t mention the one where Assange suggests his father should get him named Ambassador to the US.

Hi Don. Hope you’re doing well! In relation to Mr. Assange: Obama/Clinton placed pressure on Sweden, UK and Australia (his home country) to illicitly go after Mr. Assange. It would be real easy and helpful for your dad to suggest that Australia appoint Assange ambassador to DC “That’s a really smart tough guy and the most famous australian you have! ” or something similar. They won’t do it, but it will send the right signals to Australia, UK + Sweden to start following the law and stop bending it to ingratiate themselves with the Clintons. 12/16/16 12:38PM

And, we know that after inauguration and into 2018, a series of Trump flunkies kept trying to broker a pardon for Assange.

Now, as reported, Trump refused to answer questions about about the transition (except for that chess championship one). So that may be his explanation for limiting his answer. But the effect seems to suggest he did discuss pardoning Assange.

His refusal to answer questions about the transition also explains why he didn’t answer a slew of other questions, generally about Flynn’s communications with Kislyak and Kushner and Steve Bannon’s attempts to establish a back channel with Russia.

Particularly given Bannon and Erik Prince’s deleted texts and the inclusion of the follow-up in the January 28 conference call with Putin, it’s pretty clear Trump knew about it (and so probably also knew about Flynn’s activities).

But there is one question about sanctions relief that Trump didn’t answer, offering no excuse. It appears as a sub-question to one about the Trump’s promise — at the same press conference he asked and Russia to further hacking Hillary — to lift sanctions on Russia.

g. On July 27, 2016, in response to a question about whether you would recognize Crimea as Russian territory and lift sanctions on Russia, you said: “We’ ll be looking at that. Yeah, we’ll be looking.” Did you intend to communicate by that statement or at any other time during the campaign a willingness to lift sanctions and/or recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea if you were elected?

i. What consideration did you give to lifting sanctions and/or recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea if you were elected? Describe who you spoke with about this topic, when, the substance of the discussion(s).

Trump responded to the Crimea question — by claiming his statement did not communicate any position.

But Trump did not answer the sub-question, whether he considered lifting sanctions and whom he spoke with about that. That question was in no way limited to the transition, and therefore should have been answered.

And it’s not like Trump simply missed the question: His lawyers replicated it in their own answers. And they read Mueller’s questions closely enough to add a “sic” where Mueller had included a double “about.”

Were you asked to attend the World Chess Championship gala on November 10, 2016? If yes, who asked you to attend, when were you asked, and what were you told about about why your presence was requested?


Were you asked to attend the World Chess Championship gala on November 10, 2016? If yes, who asked you to attend, when were you asked, and what were you told about about [sic] why your presence was requested?

So they presumably saw the question, a question that on its face pertained to the election as well as the transition.

They just didn’t answer it.

So the two things that even given Trump’s contemptuous response to responding to basic answers about the Russian investigation he refused to answer pertain to a Julian Assange pardon (for the transition period) and sanctions relief.


Two Exceptions to Trump’s “Do Not Recall” Responses: A Limited Answer on an Assange Pardon and a Non-Answer on Sanctions Relief

The Significance of Trump’s Obstruction of Investigation of His Family’s Campaign Finance Crimes, Plural

How “Collusion” Appears in the Mueller Report

Putin’s Ghost: The Counterintelligence Calculus Not Included in the Obstruction Analysis

Working Twitter Threads on the Mueller Report

The Trump Men and the Grand Jury Redactions

Mueller’s Language about “Collusion,” Coordination, and Conspiracy

The Many Lies and Prevarications of Bill Barr

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

22 replies
  1. Rugger9 says:

    Which is why the House flip in 2018’s election was so critical. Kaiser Quisling can’t really ignore them as easily if they hold his purse strings.

    Nadler and Schiff will ask DJTJ about the Trump Tower meeting(s), Erik Prince about the Seychelles, and KQ about the stuff his lawyers would not answer for him.

    Fundamentally it’s all open and I have no doubt Jared will get to explain to Waters about his 666 bailout, crossing the “red lines” into the kids and the finances. Even if the Palace stonewalls and even if SCOTUS goes along, there is no way CSPAN doesn’t televise this circus.

    After all, the GOP with Benghazi and the Starr report already set their precedents to allow this now.

    Nadler just subpoenaed McGahn. Game on.

    • apotropaic says:

      C-Span isn’t good enough. I support impeachment now, primarily because that is the only way every TV and radio station will cover every word of it.

      Otherwise it is C-span for the geeks and cable news CW bullshit for the people. The Watergate hearings being on every TV made all the difference in public opinion. Yes, we have Fox now and it won’t be an exact replay, but it’s the only chance to move public opinion fast enough to actually convince the Dems to overcome their learned helplessness.

      • JamesJoyce says:

        Trump and his ilk are inherently corporate and patently fascist.

        This makes Trump a corpo-fascist occupying the White House. He now bunkers down in a bunker like psychopath, who sought refuge in a den.

        Donald Trump is Ike’s worst nightmare.

        Having been independent all my life with considerable disdain for political parties there is no partisan lens here.

        This is straight up fascism.

        There is no room in America for an American version of a Good German, period.

        That would be a Trump supporter conned by a conman.

        The reality here is this.

        It is easier to convince a drug addict that he is an addict, than to logically have a Trump supporter realize their idol is fascist addicted to power and tweets and akin of Benito…

        Appeasement does not work when dealing with fascists.

        Fascism is a social disease and easily spread; enabled by ignorance and fear.

        Google it…

        Weimar was destroyed by conmen and those that appeased dysfunction.

        Deja Vu?

  2. P J Evans says:

    From some of the stuff that happened during the transition, I get the impression that Tr*mp thinks that he got actual power starting the day after the election. (One more thing he doesn’t understand: how elections actually work.)

  3. OldTulsaDude says:

    One thing I would encourage the House Democrats to do is play hardball. There is no reason to let anyone off the hook for not producing tax returns of Individual-1 or for lying to Congress. Impeachment is an option for more than presidents.

  4. klynn says:

    OT sort of…
    Popehat rocks.

    Hope whoever is threatening you is found out through blazing sunlight.

  5. Reader 21 says:

    Don’t kid yourself, upthread—more than cspan will cover it, no matter what they call it. People don’t like being lied to—ol’ Coverup Bill Barr may have outsmarted his own self on this one. Let the games begin—you’re next, Jr!

    PS. Two great catches, Marcy—patriots the nation over thank you!

    • Eureka says:

      Oh but at least let me enjoy that lush thick header font for one more day, lol. (I haven’t seen it since the “How to Read” post, ah: Memories, Light the corners of my mind, Misty water-colored memories…. has NYT re-written every line?)

  6. rattlemullet says:


    I am amazed at the professionalism of this blog and those who regularly comment. All I can say is thanks.

    A little off topic with my question but I have read that Mueller prepared a written summary to be released to the public. Is that true? and has it been released?

    Thank your time if you or anyone choses to answer.

  7. rattlemullet says:


    A little off topic with my question but I have read that Mueller prepared a written summary to be released to the public. Is that true? and has it been released?

    Thank your time if you or anyone choses to answer.

  8. Anvil Leucippus says:

    I liked how Trevor Noah said it last night: Trump’s hypocrisy is reflected in how he describes women, and how he is actually only describing himself. Suddenly Trump can’t remember events from a year or two ago, but he cries about how Dr Ford can’t remember the physical address of the building she was assaulted in thirty years ago. So to use his own verbage, Trump is a weak, stupid, and corrupt maniac.

  9. Rugger9 says:

    I’m curious whether Cummings can send the Marshals over to round Kline up now. What we are seeing out of Kaiser Quisling’s Palace is an attempt to gain “executive privilege” even after leaving USG service. That’s new ground, and this is a Congressional subpoena, not a request. The WashPo is trying to play the politics card (look at the headline) in another attempt at bothsiderism.

    Commissars are a Soviet creation.

    I’d be more relaxed about this if SCOTUS (Roberts and Barty O’K) hasn’t been trying to create a justification for the citizenship question on the census form (it’s being argued today). It’s a signal to me that KQ’s court packing with the full assistance of McTurtle will pay dividends to the Palace.

    So, Warren (and many others) is right that impeachment is needed here since the courts cannot stop that either. Otherwise, the Ds are complicit in GOP lawlessness and will be judged by history as having agreed to it. That means the hearings must start now and that any attempt to stonewall must be fought back. Open up everything they can to the sunlight. Remind the Palace that with these invites they had the chance to get their side in and KQ chose not to use it.

    That’s even before Boy Blunder’s (Jared) Russia statement today ticked me off.

  10. Moats says:

    On August 2, 2016, Manafort and Kilimnik discussed Ukraine and Kilimnik said “all that is required to start the process is a very minor ‘wink’ ( or slight push) from [Donald Trump ].”

    Obviously post-7/27/16, but I read it as suggesting a suspicion of a signal-response relationship.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Always wondered how that works. The White House counsel for the guy whose inaugural committee is being investigated, as part of a wider investigation, gives a waiver to that guy’s chief courtier-lawyer to look into that wider investigation. Something about that seems circular and unethical, but Trump. And it is precisely why Barr is there – to do damage control.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I’ll bet Trump saw that 1 Malaysian Development Berhad (1MDB) and thought that it was an investigation into the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) and said, “Yea, I wanna know all about that. Hollywood could hurt me big time in 2020.”

  11. MattyG says:

    Okay, a bit off topic… Reading the report and Mueller’s techo-legal-constiutional-DOJ policy caveats, I get the strong impression that he feels compelled to limit or maybe not even mention serious Russia conspiracy related evidence of a direct and chargeable nature. His hands feel tied. He is legally barred from stating “we could/should have prosecuted but decided not to”… would this extend to a summation in which ALL the evidence might be construed as “saying as much in so many words”. There is seems to be a lot of winks and nods here.

    The report states that it is a summary, so presumably the report’s redacted portions also avoid the “we could have prosecuted but didn’t” proviso. So it looks to me like Congress needs to (a) not only get the unredacted report, but (b) subpoena detailed investigation evidence, and (c) subpoena the Mueller team to hear how they assessed DTs culpability without regard to DOJ policy of not charging a sitting president including family members. This is probably a painfully obvious conclusion.

    A lot of dots that were skillfully connected by the wizards here at EW seem to be gingerly sidestepped or raised in only the most indirect “cough-cough” fashion in the Mueller report…

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