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Could Trump’s Tweets about Andrew McCabe Be “Witness Intimidation?”
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Summary: On Twitter, President Donald Trump attacked FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe after he indicated he wanted to retire soon. 

For this holiday, Donald Trump may be spreading anything but Christmas cheer for FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe. Leading up to the holiday, Trump tweeted jabs at McCabe after he indicated he planned to retire in the coming months.

  
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Our 45th President is currently on holiday break at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, and in the past few days, he has been Twitter-happy, tweeting numerous statements about his enemy CNN, the FBI which he despises, and his perceived war on Christmas.

This weekend, Trump surprised conservatives when he attacked McCabe, who is up for pension benefits in March. On December 23, Trump implied that McCabe was corrupt during his investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails and that he was racing into retirement.

The president’s harsh words for McCabe and McCabe’s wife, Jill, prompted former CIA director John Brennan to state that Trump is afraid of the FBI. Former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh urged Trump to stop attacking the investigation bureau.

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But Trump’s tweets could have an even bigger impact than damaging McCabe’s reputation. According to two former White House ethics’ lawyers, the president may be guilty of violating laws that protect witnesses.

Norm Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and special assistant for ethics and government reform for former President Barack Obama, tweeted that Trump appeared to be intimidating a witness in his ongoing obstruction of justice case.



“Normally, someone being investigated for obstruction of justice who intimidates and threatens three key witnesses against him (here Comey, McCabe and Baker) risks additional witness tampering charges,” Eisen wrote.

Richard Painter, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School who served as chief ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush White House, also stated that Trump was intimidating a witness.

“Using Twitter on Christmas Eve to intimidate a witness (McCabe) in a criminal investigation is not a very Christian way to celebrate the holiday,” Painter tweeted. “But it does make Mr. Mueller’s job easier and that’s a nice thing to do. Merry Christmas!”

According to Newsweek, this is not the first time that Trump has allegedly threatened a witness. This summer, he tweeted insults about FBI Director James Comey, who was later fired. Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor, told Newsweek that this was a case of witness tampering, which is something you aren’t supposed to do.

However, Alex Whiting, a Harvard Law School professor, stated that Trump’s remarks must cross a certain line before being flat-out-witness tampering. To actually violate the law, Whiting said, “You would examine his statements carefully to assess to what extent they were threatening, whether they indicated that there might be consequences to testifying, whether they indicated pressure to withhold or fabricate testimony.”

Based on Whiting’s standard, Trump’s words may be inappropriate, but he arguably isn’t doing anything illegal without an actual consequence threatened.

What do you think of Trump’s tweets against Andrew McCabe? Let us know in the comments below.



 

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