Former Watergate prosecutor is speaking out, warning that Trump’s efforts to defame a potential government witness who is likely to be called in a federal trial could result in a gag order from Special Prosecutor Mueller.
Former U.S. Attorney Nick Akerman, who prosecuted the Watergate case, is speaking out about Trump’s response to recent developments in Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
As Politico reported on Friday, “Trump is putting his Justice Department in an impossible spot by demanding that it investigate his political opponents.”
With his forceful pleas via Twitter and recent media interviews to launch inquiries into everything from Hillary Clinton’s e-mails to an Obama-era uranium deal, the president is essentially setting the department up for a major breach of protocol if it actually follows through on his requests, according to former government attorneys and prosecutors.
Paul Rosenzweig, a former George W. Bush-era Homeland Security official and senior counsel from the Kenneth Starr investigation into President Bill Clinton, told Politico that “There is a reason why we have a norm against presidential interference in criminal investigations,” and “Trump is the living, breathing proof-case for that norm.”
Last Monday, October 30, 2017, three of Trump’s associates were indicted on criminal charges related to Mueller’s Russia investigation. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Manafort business associate, Rick Gates, both pleaded “not guilty,” while George Papadopoulos, a foreign-policy adviser to Trump during the campaign and after the inauguration, pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials.
Business Insider provided the following bullet-point summary of the charges against Papadopoulos:
- George Papadopoulos, 30, a foreign-policy adviser to Trump’s campaign in early 2016, secretly pleaded guilty October 5 to making false statements to the FBI about the nature and extent of his contacts with foreign nationals who he knew had ties to senior Russian government officials. The charge was unsealed on Monday.
- Papadopoulos was apparently told that Moscow had dirt on Hillary Clinton in April 2016, completely changing the timeline of Russia’s election interference.
- In May 2016, Papadopoulos said his contacts in Russia wanted to meet with Trump in an email to someone described as a high-ranking Trump campaign official, who responded, “It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.”
- One day after FBI investigators interviewed Papadopoulos, he deactivated his Facebook account, which contained evidence of meetings with Russians. Six days later, he got a new cell phone number.
- The unsealed court filings showed extensive contact before the election between Papadopoulos and Russia-linked foreign nationals, raising the stakes for the White House — and throwing a huge wrench in Trump’s attempts to distance himself from Manafort.
Later on Monday, Trump took to his Twitter account in an attempt to downplay the indictments and to defame Papadopoulos, a potential government witness, calling him a liar.
Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus????? Also, there is NO COLLUSION! The Fake News is working overtime. As Paul Manaforts lawyer said, there was “no collusion” and events mentioned took place long before he came to the campaign. Few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George [Papadopoulos], who has already proven to be a liar. Check the DEMS!
Turning to those remarks, Politico reports that: “In the Papadopoulos case, former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman warned that the president had defamed a potential government witness who is likely to be called in a federal trial.”
“This could be grounds for Mueller to obtain a gag order on Trump,” Akerman stated, adding: “It would be unprecedented, but he is interfering with the government’s right to a fair trial.”
The Hill reports that:
Papadopoulos may be called to witness in further court proceedings on the issue, raising questions over whether Trump’s comments on his former adviser may be improper.
Papadopoulos reportedly suggested in a campaign meeting with then-candidate Trump that he could potentially set up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, boasting about his high-up contacts with the nation.
Newsweek elaborated on the prospect of Mueller obtaining a gag order, reporting that:
In order for a gag order to be imposed on the president, Mueller would have to have the request signed off by a federal judge who agreed that the president’s public statements risked prejudicing the case. The federal judge overseeing the criminal trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and business partner Rick Gates, who were indicted Monday, said she is inclined to impose a gag order in the case.