May 1, 2018

On CNN's New Day, legal analyst and former Mueller assistant Michael Zelden explained why, ultimately, he doesn't believe the questions released last night are actually from Robert Mueller's office.

Zelden explained why he first thought the White House counsel's office leaked the questions "in an effort to influence the president's thinking about whether or not to do an interview. And I think they'll gauge reaction of people to these questions and help influence the president to he should sit down or not sit down. I think that there's a great debate going on within the White House counsel's office about this. And I think this may be one way to try to shape the president's thinking about it, in addition to the advice he's getting from his lawyers."

"There are a lot of traps within these questions if somebody is trying to spin a story," Chris Cuomo said to Toobin.

"The bad news is, this is obviously a very extensive obstruction of justice investigation. I mean, they are obviously very concerned about many stages of the president's behavior, not just the firing of James Comey, and there are lots of specific questions about what he knew when. Now, all of us have heard Donald Trump answer questions. it's very hard for me to believe that he will actually answer all these questions," Toobin said.

"But that's the point, though," Cuomo said. "Some of these questions are worded in a way that investigators like them, that we wouldn't ask. 'What was your purpose in doing this?' That sounds like an easy enough question, but let's say I say I didn't have any real purpose. Then you have found out that I told somebody that I was going to try to craft this statement in a certain way because i wanted to influence it. so now depending on how they decide to reconcile that --

"It could be something that was something material and untruthful. that's the trick between talking to us and talking to investigators," Alisyn Camerota said.

Zelden got to the real issue. "We have been calling these questions that Mueller propounded, I don't believe that that's actually what these are," he said.

"I think these are notes taken by the recipients of a conversation with Mueller's office where he outlined broad topics and these guys wrote down questions that they thought these topics may raise."

"Why do you think that?" Camerota said "Why don't you think that this is more like notes?"

"Because this isn't the way lawyers will write questions," Zelden said. "In my estimation, some of the grammar is not even proper. So I don't see this as a list of written questions that Mueller's office gave to the president.

"I think these are more notes that the White House has taken and then they have expanded upon the conversation to write out these as questions and that's where we are. So, I think Jeffrey is right that these are introductory questions that then introduce a lot of sub questions in a longer interview. And the thing that you can see from this, this interview is not going to end any time quickly because these are a lot of questions and this will take potentially more than one day to answer, which is why I thought originally this may be an effort to influence the president's thinking about whether or not he's going to try to resist an effort to interview him or not."

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