Trump Tapes Tweet Likely in Violation of Witness Intimidation Laws
On Thursday, Trump admitted via tweet that he does not have any tapes of his meetings with former FBI director, James Comey. During an interview the following day, the President has implied that the purpose of this lie was to influence Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month.
Trump defended his claims by saying that anyone could have recorded the conversations. According to 18 U.S. Code § 1512 on Tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant:
“(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;
… shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”
Surely, the important question now would regard whether or not Trump’s comments will have any consequences. We do not know at this time due to an ongoing investigation, but rest assured, any public comments made by the President can and will be held against him under the special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller.
It is not only Trump’s comments from today which may be included in Mueller’s conclusions. Rather, it was the very consideration of using executive privilege to remove James Comey from testifying entirely. Under these statutes, the subject does not have to be successful in their actions. They only have to attempt to obstruct justice or intimidate a witness. This is only according to the text of the law and cannot predict any outcome or consequences in the investigation, but reviewing the laws and actions will lead the public to form their own opinions on this case.
These comments did not sway the most loyal of Trump supporters, as the spin now is that Trump somehow “trolled” Comey into believing he had tapes. In fact, it was the opposite. Anyone who viewed Comey’s testimony heard the memorable line, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes”. Opponents to President Trump who trust the merit of Comey’s testimony agree. They would have loved to hear the tapes if they did exist.
There is also another popular perspective where the tapes may actually exist, but would be withheld by the President in order to prevent confirming Comey’s comments. Although President Trump has claimed in this interview with Fox & Friends that “his story never changed”, it appears one major part of his story did change: There are no tapes, and he does not have them if there are. If you require a text version of Trump’s comments, refer to this transcript:
Well, I didn’t tape him, eh, you never know what’s happening when you see that the Obama administration or perhaps, longer than that, was doing all of this unmasking and surveillance and you read all about it and I’ve been reading about it for the last couple of months about the seriousness of the… and the horrible situation with surveillance all over the place and you’ve been hearing the word ‘unmasking’, a word you probably never heard before. So you never know what’s out there, but I didn’t tape and I don’t have any tape and I didn’t tape, but when he found out that I -you know- that there may be tapes out there, whether it’s governmental tapes or anything else, who knows? I think his story may have changed, i mean, you’ll have to take a look at that, because then he’ll have to tell what actually took place at the events and my story didn’t change, my story was always a straight story, my story was always the truth, but you’ll have to determine for yourself whether or not his story changed but I did not tape.
-The President of the United States