Politics

Donald Trump Could Be Illegally Tampering With Jan. 6 Witnesses, Legal Experts Say

WASHINGTON ― Former president Donald Trump and his associates may very well be criminally interfering with the House Jan. 6 committee, based on authorized consultants.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) steered at a listening to Tuesday that some witnesses haven’t testified as “fully and forthrightly” as others due to interference from Trump’s internal circle, citing two statements from witnesses.

“What they said to me is, ‘As long as I continue to be a team player, they know that I’m on the team, I’m doing the right thing, I’m protecting who I need to protect, you know, I’ll continue to stay in good graces in Trump World,’” a witness advised the committee.

The messages might represent obstruction of justice or tampering with a witness in an official continuing. Kevin O’Brien, a former federal prosecutor, advised HuffPost it could be unlawful to attempt to have an effect on witness testimony because the Jan. 6 committee investigates the Capitol riot.

“Anything that would deflect from that course, if undertaken intentionally, is probably a crime,” mentioned O’Brien, now a associate at white collar legislation agency, Ford O’Brien Landy LLP.

Cheney stopped wanting alleging a criminal offense had been dedicated, as an alternative saying that in the midst of its interviews the committee had grow to be conscious of “a particular practice that raised significant concern.”

The related a part of the federal law against witness tampering requires as much as 20 years in jail for anybody who “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… influence, delay, or prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding.”

The statute additionally says it doesn’t depend as witness tampering if “the conduct consisted solely of lawful conduct and that the defendant’s sole intention was to encourage, induce, or cause the other person to testify truthfully.”

The Justice Department has been investigating doable crimes by Trump associates, however Attorney General Merrick Garland has been coy concerning the division’s plans. Federal brokers lately seized supplies from Jeffrey Clark, a former deputy lawyer basic who was loyal to Trump, and John Eastman, an lawyer who suggested Trump on methods to steal the election. It’s as much as Garland, not a House committee, whether or not somebody will get prosecuted.

The bulk of Tuesday’s listening to showcased stunning testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who testified that Trump knew a few of his supporters who got here to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021 have been armed and harmful, that Trump had needed to accompany them to the Capitol, and that Trump wasn’t remotely upset as they mobbed the constructing.

“I don’t f**ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me,” Trump mentioned, based on Hutchinson.

The two statements to witnesses that Cheney shared on Tuesday didn’t embody specific threats.

″[A person] let me know you’ve gotten your deposition tomorrow,“ someone close to Trump wrote in a partially redacted message to a witness. “He wants me to let you know he’s thinking about you. He knows you’re loyal and you’re going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition.”

But even with no menace, if the message is coming from Trump or an in depth affiliate, a witness would most likely keep in mind that individuals whom Trump has singled out for disloyalty have been harassed and threatened by his supporters.

“If I know that, then I might really be afraid that if Trump is upset with me for not testifying the way that he perceives that I should testify, then not only am I likely to have some consequences to my employment, but there could be consequences to my safety or the safety of my family,” Tamara Lave, a legislation professor on the University of Miami, mentioned in an interview.

Norm Eisen, a former White House Counsel below President Barack Obama, said on Twitter the messages the committee revealed “will certainly lead to criminal investigation” and perhaps prosecution for witness tampering. Harry Litman, a former prosecutor, tweeted that the messages have been “a layup of an obstruction felony count.”

O’Brien additionally mentioned an investigation could be doubtless. “They will look into this and pursue it because it goes to the heart of what the Justice Department does,” he mentioned. “It can’t bring cases properly if witnesses are allowed to be intimidated or corruptly persuaded.”

It wouldn’t be the primary time prosecutors checked out Trump’s remedy of witnesses. During a particular counsel investigation of Trump’s effort to hinder an investigation into his 2016 marketing campaign, Trump undertook “efforts in both public and private to encourage witnesses not to cooperate with the investigation,” Special Counsel Robert Mueller wrote in his final report. Those efforts included dangling the prospect of federal pardons in entrance of witnesses. Mueller concluded that he couldn’t clear Trump of getting obstructed justice.

“I think most Americans know that attempting to influence witnesses to testify untruthfully presents very serious concerns,” Cheney mentioned on the listening to. “We will be discussing these issues as a committee, carefully considering our next steps.”

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