Legal Experts Say Trump Just Committed Witness Tampering on Twitter

“This doesn’t seem very cool or very legal.”

Ralf Hirschberger/Zuma Press

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On Monday morning, the president took to Twitter to praise Roger Stone, his longtime political adviser and associate, for refusing to speak to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team.

Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference and Trump has zeroed in on Stone as a possible tie between Russia and the Trump campaign, investigating whether he had advance knowledge that WikiLeaks would publish thousands of  emails stolen from Democrats by Russian hackers. On Sunday’s This Week on ABC, Stone vowed not to testify against the president. “Nice to know that some people still have ‘guts!'” Trump tweeted in response.

A number of legal experts from both sides of the aisle have said the president’s tweet could represent an illegal attempt to influence a witness in the special counsel’s investigation. George Conway, a longtime conservative lawyer and vocal Trump critic who is married to presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway, suggested the message violated portions of the US code governing witness tampering and obstruction of justice:

Neal Katyal, who served as acting solicitor general under President Barack Obama, piled on, as did lawyer and ethics expert Norm Eisen.

So did Obama’s former head speechwriter, Jon Favreau, alongside other prominent lawyers:

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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