Do President Trump’s tweets praising allies like Roger Stone and Paul Manafort for not “flipping” and cooperating with the Mueller probe constitute witness tampering? Well, Bob Mueller certainly hasn’t offered any indication that he’s pursuing that line of inquiry. But that hasn’t stopped one prominent Trump critic – and husband of one of the president’s closest advisors – from suggesting as much.
George Conway, the lawyer who turned down/was denied a senior position in Trump’s Department of Justice, tweeted on Monday that Trump’s latest tweet praising former campaign worker Roger Stone for not cooperating with Mueller might violate a federal statute governing tampering and obstruction of justice.
“File under ’18 U.S.C. §§ 1503, 1512,'” Conway tweeted, which is a reference to the statutes for obstruction of justice and tampering with witnesses, as the Hill pointed out.
File under “18 U.S.C. §§ 1503, 1512” https://t.co/e4ZGVn1kJi
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) December 3, 2018
In the tweet (quoted by Conway), Trump was apparently reference an interview given by Stone over the weekend where the veteran political operative said he wouldn’t testify against Trump because it would mean he would need to “make things up.”
One Conway’s former op-ed collaborators, Neal Katyal, (who also once served as acting solicitor general during the Obama administration) appeared to agree with Conway’s assessment.
“This is genuinely looking like witness tampering,” he tweeted. “DOJ (at least with a nonfake AG) prosecutes cases like these all the time. The fact it’s done out in the open is no defense.”
George is right. This is genuinely looking like witness tampering. DOJ (at least with a nonfake AG) prosecutes cases like these all the time. The fact it’s done out in the open is no defense. Trump is genuinely melting down, and no good lawyer can represent him under these circs https://t.co/zqFUoQvWTf
— Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) December 3, 2018
As did Bloomberg Opinion Editor (and perennial Trump nemesis) Tim O’Brien, when he wrote in a Monday column that Trump’s twitter feed was rife with evidence of ‘misconduct’.
President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed — awash in daily musings, threats, cajoling, criticism and flagrant meddling in a federal investigation — is a font of information and evidence for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators.
Monday’s Twitter installment from the president sure looks like what any vigilant prosecutor might construe as “witness tampering.”
Trump persistent bashing of Michael Cohen, his former attorney, and Mueller himself have also been criticized as verging on a violation of the witness tampering statute. But then again, the notion that praising an individual simply for being truthful with investigators is somehow a criminal act could be construed as illegal and possible grounds for impeach seems like a stretch. But then again, we’re not the lawyers here.