An obviously nervous President Trump was up early this morning tweeting about the testimony today of former acting Attorney General Sally Yates in a way that intimated that she was guilty of purposefully leaking classified information and that he would punish her for it.
Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Counsel.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 8, 2017
“The idea of the President of the Untied States essentially threatening a witness, he’s basically accusing her of leaking, we have never had that before,” said legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Toobin said on CNN this morning.
“We’ve never had presidents who did this kind of thing,” continued Toobin. “The idea that the president – the guy who’s in charge of the Justice Department – is threatening a witness is really kind of disturbing.”
Under 18 U.S. Code § 1512, witness tampering is a felony punishable by twenty years in prison:
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 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.
Yates is expected to testify that she gave the Trump administration a warning while she was still serving at the Justice Department that Michael Flynn, who Trump tapped as his National Security Advisor, was not to be trusted, had links to Russia and was so compromised he might be vulnerable to blackmail.
However, the tweeter-in-chief did not go after directly at Yates for her likely testimony. Instead, he went after her character and implied she leaked confidential information to the media. Trump provides no proof or details that prove the attorney and experienced government employee had leaked anything.The website the New Civil Rights Movement collected other reactions on Twitter to his attack on Yates and his repeated efforts to shift blame to President Obama and the news media. Here is one of their compiled tweets:
And then he was fired by Obama.
And then, you hired him.
And Sally Yates told you he was bad news.
And you waited 3 weeks to fire him.
— Holly Figueroa O'Reilly (@AynRandPaulRyan) May 8, 2017
Yates will testify under oath, and as a lawyer can be expected to honor that oath and tell the truth. Trump, on the other hand, has repeatedly been caught spewing unfounded fabrications and outright lies, so his credibility is only further damaged by these attacks.
Here is what a Congressman who is investigating Trump had to say:
Mr. President: You failed to vet Flynn, hired him, and only fired him once his lies became public. Which part of that is Obama's fault? https://t.co/sMhvFjX5pa
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) May 8, 2017
Even if Trump’s claims had been valid, the idea that the president is trying to intimidate a witness before Congress in advance of her testimony is despicable and ultimately may be part of the case to be made that he acted illegally in conspiring with Russia in 2016.