Tonight, the NYT noted that in his interview with Jeanine Pirro of Fox News Trump stated:
“[Michael Cohen’s] in trouble on some loans and fraud and taxicabs and stuff that I know nothing about,” Mr. Trump said. “And in order to get his sentence reduced, he says, I have an idea, I’ll tell — I’ll give you some information on the president.”
Mr. Trump then implied that Mr. Cohen ought to be sharing information instead on his father-in-law, whose name he said he did not know.
“But he should give information maybe on his father-in-law, because that’s the one that people want to look at,” he said, adding, “That’s the money in the family.” Pressed by Ms. Pirro for more details, Mr. Trump said, “I don’t know, but you’ll find out, and you’ll look into it because nobody knows what’s going on over there.”
18 U.S.C. § 1505 provides, in pertinent part, that:
Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede . . . the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress—
Shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both.
28 thoughts on “That’s A Nice Witness You Have There: It’d Be A Shame If Something Bad Happened To Him.”
Three Democratic committee chairmen have made the same point. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/13/us/politics/trump-cohen-testimony.html
But would someone explain to me exactly how Trump’s statements in this case constitute “threats or force”?
Hmm. A man who has nominal control of the republican party’s propaganda machine and direct authority over the nation’s law enforcement apparatus is suggesting that a prospective congressional witness is lying about him but has a father-in-law who should be investigated for criminal activity. (When part of the reason that Cohen got the sentence he did is that he refused to say anything about family members.)
The implied threat is that either the department of justice or the rightwing noise machine or both will be used to make Cohen’s family and inlaws’ lives miserable. And, mind you, that’s the public, entirely open version.
Good answer. Trump’s statement might not constitute proof of a threat beyond a reasonable doubt, but should suffice as another piece of evidence of “high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
I suppose Congress would have to refer the matter to DOJ for prosecution, but would they prosecute?
In response to Jarndyce, it is a threat to expose someone’s criminal activity. As I am often called upon to advise my clients, if you say “Do this or else I’ll press criminal charges,” you are engaged in extortion.
Trump’s playing an interesting game of chicken. From what I’ve read, Trump knows Cohen’s father-in-law pretty well since the guy is apparently one of the major steerers for Eastern European and Russian grey and black money. So if he flips, the only thing that would be keeping Trump out of federal prison would be the Justice Department position that presidents are, essentially, the physical embodiment of the state and therefore cannot be prosecuted by the state.
In fact, this dynamic is one of the reasons why I have real doubts about SDNY’s motives. If the purpose of the investigation was to advance the prosecution of money laundering by the Trump Organization, they would be working to flip the father-in-law, which doesn’t seem to be happening (although it might be happening in secret). But the focus on Cohen while immunizing higher ups and giving sweetheart deals to the National Enquirer has caused me to become very skeptical about what’s going on with the SDNY.
I wonder if “flip” fits in the same sentence with “one of the major steerers for Eastern European and Russian grey and black money?”
If that’s really the man, I’m guessing the chance of flipping him is about the same as the chance I’ll win the PowerBall jackpot. He could stand up to 99 years in the Big House before he’d stand up to his own chain of command if he flipped. And there are eyes and ears everywhere. I doubt he’d have much confidence in Witness Protection these days.
I remember many years ago having a discussion on this point with Robert Blakey in which he said that the worry that one’s fellow criminals might not be willing to spend life in prison actually creates a powerful dynamic can work in favor of flipping somebody, too. The paradigm for this is a great scene in the movie “Casino” in which the bosses decide to kill all the potential witnesses, even though considered to be “stand up guys” because it’s always better without witnesses.
Once everybody gets the picture that potential witnesses are going to be killed as a precautionary measure regardless of whether they’re considered loyal, there’s really no reason not to go to the feds and cooperate. The fact that you’re not dead only means that nobody’s gotten around to murdering you yet, not that you’re safe or your family is safe (why take chances with them, either?). Another movie reference explains the dynamic here: Overall, in the movie “Wiseguys,” Henry Hill has no incentive to become a cooperator as long as he’s in good standing with the Lucchese crime family and every incentive never to cooperate.
But after Hill’s narcotics arrest, his associates were concerned that he might not be willing to do a long stretch in prison. Hill understands this concern and fears being murdered by his associates. Now he’s got no choices and only one place to go.
It’s exactly kind of perverse that Blakey explained to me. The target will definitely be killed if he doesn’t cooperate. But he’ll only possibly be killed if he flips. So it’s less the pressure from the cops that brings the guy around and more the increasing ruthlessness of organized crime that forces these people to become cooperators.
My suspicion, and it’s only a hunch, is that what’s keeping the father-in-law out of federal prison is the fact that he was a big steerer for Russian and Ukrainian black and grey money for Trump, which means that at least some of his criminal activities are inextricably intertwined with the Trump Family, and that since they’re off-limits to prosecutors so is Cohen’s family.
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