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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Five dumb, easy questions President Donald Trump hasn't answered

Special counsel Robert Mueller, seen on June 19,

Special counsel Robert Mueller, seen on June 19, 2013, and President Donald Trump on Dec. 15, 2017. There are five easy questions surrounding the Mueller probe that the president has failed to answer. Credit: Composite photo: AFP/Getty Images / Saul Loeb, left, Brendan Smialowski

Last month, President Donald Trump was asked during a press gaggle if he wanted acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to "rein in" special counsel Robert Mueller. 

"What a stupid question that is," he griped after a pause, wagging his finger at CNN's Abby Phillip. "What a stupid question."

Stupid or not, it sounded easy enough to answer. "I expect him to do his job properly," he could have replied. Or, "You know my view of the Mueller probe."

Or even a candid "Yes I do" or "No I don't" might have scored points with anyone disposed to hear him out.

Instead, Trump just sounded flummoxed.

But there are other neutral and basic questions that the president hasn't answered during this long verbal journey of tweets, blurts, allegations and denials over Russiagate.

Here are five to consider:

1. Did he know Michael Cohen well enough to not be surprised when his former lawyer broke from him under pressure — and swore to descriptions of events that differed from the president's?

Last week, the president called Cohen weak and a liar. But Cohen worked for Trump in the private sector for more than a decade. His titles included Trump Organization vice president, special counsel to Trump, co-president of Trump Entertainment and board member of the Eric Trump Foundation. Cohen handled such sensitive matters as the effort to conceal a reported relationship with porn actress Stormy Daniels. 

2. Could Trump explain the process by which he migrated in a few short months from Cohen defender to Cohen hater?

In April the president denounced the federal raid on Cohen's office. He said: “It’s a disgrace, it’s, frankly, a real disgrace, it’s an attack on our country in a true sense. It’s an attack on all we stand for. Attorney-client privilege is dead!”

Trump adviser Roger Stone told The New York Times shortly after the raid: "Donald goes out of his way to treat him [Cohen] like garbage."

And by this week, the president's public tune had changed from lamenting all the bad things happening to Cohen to complaining that not enough bad things were happening to Cohen.

Trump tweeted Monday: "You mean he can do all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things having to do with fraud, big loans, Taxis, etc., and not serve a long prison term?"

3. Was Trump trying to encourage Stone to stonewall by hailing his "guts" for supposedly not turning on the president? Or was the president merely expressing admiration for a GOP operative who has long boasted of "dirty tricks"?

Consider that in 2008, Trump told The New Yorker: “Roger is a stone-cold loser. He always tries taking credit for things he never did.”

4. Did Trump believe Stone when Stone said in August 2016 that he "communicated with [WikiLeaks founder Julian] Assange" and that the next documents released would "pertain to the Clinton Foundation"?

Or did Trump believe Stone on Sunday when the GOP consultant told ABC News, "I had no contact with Assange”?

5. Why shouldn't voters consider it a conflict of interest if Trump and his company pushed for a Moscow hotel project while he took campaign positions on Russian economic sanctions and war in Ukraine?

The question is prompted by the president's statement a few days ago regarding Cohen's testimony that the Moscow deal was shelved much later than initially claimed.

"Even if he [Cohen] was right," Trump said, "it doesn't matter, because I was allowed to do whatever I wanted during the campaign. I was running my business, a lot of different things."

Surely the president could clear these matters up by answering truthfully.

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