18 U.S. Code § 1512 is a federal law preventing witness tampering and intimidation. It states:
(b) Whoever knowingly uses intimidation, threatens, or corruptly persuades another person, or attempts to do so, or engages in misleading conduct toward another person, with intent to—
(1) influence, delay, or prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding;
(2) cause or induce any person to—
(A) withhold testimony, or withhold a record, document, or other object, from an official proceeding;
Ahead of former acting Attorney General Sally Yates’ testimony before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee Monday, President Donald Trump tweeted:
“Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Counsel.” — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 8, 2017
Now some are asking whether with that tweet Trump committed a felony punishable by up to twenty years in prison.
Yates first gained the public’s attention after Trump fired her for refusing to enforce his first Muslim ban, which she avers was unconstitutional. Federal courts agreed. Monday, Yates testified about a conversation she engaged in with White House counsel Donald McGahn in January about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia.
Yates confirmed reports she informed White House officials that Flynn was misleading them about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak weeks before Flynn was fired, making the administration susceptible to Russian blackmail.
Ahead of her testimony, though, the president went to Twitter to apparently create a diversion.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) is wondering whether Trump engaged in witness intimidation, a federal crime.
John King said:
“He’s the President of the United States and the former acting attorney general is about to testify under oath before the United States Congress and you tweet, ‘Ask Sally Yates under oath if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to the White House counsel.’ I started, before I got into covering politics all the time, I used to cover the courts a lot. A lawyer would call that witness intimidation.”
Dana Bash concurred:
“Look, I think we have all been kind of desensitized in some way to his tweets and to his statements that are so out of the norm. This is beyond out of the norm. This is inappropriate. For the President of the United States to be this aggressive with somebody who used to work for him, who is coming before the United States Congress with sworn testimony hours later, is beyond the pale. It just is.”
With yesterday’s news of FBI Director James Comey’s firing, the web of Russian intrigue becomes evermore circuitous. Some are claiming what we are experiencing is worse, or at least comparable, to President Nixon’s Watergate scandal in the 1970s. Some, in an even darker analogy, claim this is the worst scandal in out nation’s history.
Regardless of which, and no matter where it takes us, we will talking about these events for decades, perhaps centuries.
As Walter Scott said:
“O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!”