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That fact makes his statements worse, says Whiting.
But while an explicit threat to fire someone might constitute “corrupt persuasion,” Mariotti says, a general statement about how the investigation is a “witch hunt” is closer to constitutionally protected speech.
Trump has launched broadsides against these potential witnesses in comments to the press as well. Trump tried to impugn Rosenstein’s independence by saying the Deputy AG (incorrectly, as it turns out) was from Baltimore, a place with few Republicans. Witness-tampering, a subspecies of obstruction, is dealt with in section 18 U. But whether he crosses a line set by federal criminal law is still worth considering.
If his conduct constitutes a crime, or even simply comes close, that could form the basis of a future article of impeachment.
Taking the offense step-by-step, the first requirement is knowingly using intimidation, threatening, or corruptly persuading a person.
While Trump’s statements so far are bullying, and arguably could have the effect of making people afraid to go up against him, “I don’t think we are at the point where a prudent and responsible prosecutor would charge these statements” under § 1512, says Whiting.
Skirting closest to the line is Trump’s tweet suggesting he taped his conversations with Comey.
To prove such intent in the case of tweets like these, Mariotti says you would need specific communications: Trump writing to someone that he intended to tweet to damage their reputation, for example, so they didn’t talk about a specific subject, for example.“In the case of more obviously problematic communications that are typically prosecuted under § 1512, like meeting with a witness to convince him to lie, the defendant’s intent can be inferred from his or her own actions,” Mariotti says.
did, disputing Comey’s account and interpretation of Trump’s actions. Alongside conduct like killing or using physical force against a witness, the section outlaws “knowingly” using intimidation, threatening a person, or corruptly persuading a person with the intent to influence, delay or prevent their testimony in an official proceeding, or to cause them to withhold their testimony.
Other potential witnesses to find themselves on the receiving end of Trump’s Twitter account include former acting (and current Deputy) FBI Director Andrew Mc Cabe – whom Trump has criticized as conflicted – and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who penned the letter recommending Comey’s dismissal but also appointed Mueller. Of course, in reality, as a sitting president, Trump faces a very low risk of being indicted.
If you have been charged with intimidation of a witness, contact my office immediately for your free consultation.
Discussion of Donald Trump’s possible criminal wrongdoing since assuming the presidency has focused most intensely on classical obstruction of justice.