President Donald Trump got the news cycle buzzing bright and early Monday morning with a series of tweets railing against special counsel Robert Mueller. The president, however, also said something that was perceived as no mere wink and nod to Roger Stone. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway‘s attorney husband George quickly said that you could file Trump’s words under ’18 U.S.C. §§ 1503, 1512′” — or that the tweet amounted to witness tampering and obstruction of justice.
Well, at least one former federal prosecutor seems to agree. CNN legal analyst Elie Honig, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney with the Southern District of New York, said that if he had heard over a wiretap what Trump just tweeted he would have been giddy.
What about witness tampering? “He’s pretty close to the line,” Honig said. “He is right on the edge of witness tampering.”
“Federal law makes it a crime to do anything to dissuade, try to postpone or delay someone’s testimony,” he said. “When you look at the president’s tweets from this morning, if I was a prosecutor and we had a wiretap up on someone’s phone and they said those exact things that the president tweeted, I would say, ‘wow, we just got him on obstruction.'”
18 U.S.C. § 1503 says it’s illegal to make corrupt or forceful attempts to “influence, intimidate, or impede any grand or petit juror, or officer in or of any court of the United States, or officer who may be serving at any examination or other proceeding before any United States magistrate judge or other committing magistrate, in the discharge of his duty.” 18 U.S.C. § 1512 is witness tampering. Here’s what Trump said to cause a commotion this morning:
“I will never testify against Trump.” This statement was recently made by Roger Stone, essentially stating that he will not be forced by a rogue and out of control prosecutor to make up lies and stories about “President Trump.” Nice to know that some people still have “guts!”
Law&Crime noted earlier that Trump is flirting with obstruction danger by continuing to tweet statements like this or by publicly considering controversial pardons.
3/ I’ve included the relevant jury instruction below. Mueller would need to prove, among other things, that Trump had “corrupt” intent and acted with the intent to cause Stone to withhold testimony. pic.twitter.com/BtcQZW0qhl
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) December 3, 2018
You can watch the CNN segment in the player above.
[Image via Win McNamee/Getty Images]