New York Times journalist Michael Schmidt did not reveal Tuesday the source of a list of four dozen questions special counsel Robert Mueller's team wants to ask President Donald Trump, and he said the document contained very few surprises.
"Let me sort of lay out how these questions came about," Schmidt said, when being pressed on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program about the source of the questions.
"There's been a lot of negotiations back and forth between Mueller's side and the president's lawyers about an interview. In March, the negotiations got pretty contentious and it was pretty clear that the president's lawyers did not want him to do an interview."
At that point, the investigators called Trump's lawyers to the special counsel office and told them "okay, we're going to walk through with you everything we want to ask the president," to give them a head start in getting Trump ready for the interview and reassure him there would be no surprises, said Schmidt.
The questions were outlined, and the president's lawyers took notes about the items Muller wants to ask about.
"And that's how we got this document; that's what this document is," said Schmidt. "It's based on conversations, a direct conversation, a reciting to them of the questions they want to ask, from Mueller's side."
More than half of the questions were about obstruction and the actions Trump has taken since he came into office.
"An investigation that started focused on Russia's efforts to influence the election, ties between Trump's campaign and Russia, is now predominantly focused on obstruction," said Schmidt.
"The questions of his efforts to interfere with the investigation. When you take a step back from this document and you look at it you sort of realize all of these different things that have piled up over the past 15 months that the president has done in office that raises questions."
About a quarter of the questions in the document involve Russia, said Schmidt, and there was a question about former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
"If you just look at the president's conduct from the public record and you look at the different things that we know, there's just a lot many more things in the obstruction bucket than there are in the collusion bucket directly related to the president, many more things," said Schmidt, including "[former FBI Director James] Comey firing, his treatment of Jeff Sessions. . . his his obsession with loyalty, the loyalty of the person who is running the investigation."
The questions contained very few surprises but did include on about whether Trump knew if his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was making efforts to secretly communicate with Russia, Schmidt added.
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