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PAYOFF? Does Trump paying witnesses’ lawyers constitute obstruction?

PAYOFF? Does Trump paying witnesses’ lawyers constitute obstruction?

smith wants trump to stop interfering

Anytime someone is a witness in a major and complicated criminal case, it’s a good idea for that person to get their own lawyer, even though that person is not the one on trial.

The lawyer helps a witness navigate their testimony — hopefully always truthfully — without saying something that puts their name below the line of the state or federal government in the complaint.

But if a defendant pays for that witness’s lawyer, it could most certainly get in the way of justice because — as we’ve seen before — the lawyer tends to skew the testimony in favor of the defendant.

At least that’s the way Jack Smith sees it, and he calls it obstruction of justice.

Charlie Savage from The New York Times notes that one of the reasons that Smith subpoenaed Trump’s Twitter account was to search for messages concerning paying legal fees of potential witnesses, as Savage points out.

 “In the just unsealed materials from the fight over Jack Smith’s search warrant for Trump’s Twitter account, the special counsel explicitly portrays Trump’s paying of legal fees for ‘potential witnesses against him’ in the Jan 6 case as an obstructive act.”

Joyce Vance, one of MSNBC’s star legal analysts, said that Smith should go one step further and move to block co-defendants that have a direct conflict with Trump in the Florida case with the files.

As Smith set out in the above filing:

“The former President’s obstructive efforts continue unablated with respect to this investigation here, in which he has determined to pay the legal fees of potential witnesses against him and repeatedly disparaged the lead prosecutor on his Truth Social platform.”

We saw how who pays for the attorneys play out before our eyes with Cassidy Hutchinson in the Congressional Investigation.

Hutchinson described the pressure that came from the Trump campaign when she was not paying for her lawyer. At the time, CBS News reported:

“”If you want to know at the end, we’ll let you know,’ she described him as saying, ‘but we’re not telling people where funding is coming from right now. Don’t worry, we’re taking care of you. Like, you’re never going to get a bill for this, so if that’s what you’re worried about.’”

As Hutchinson prepared for her first interview with the committee later that month, she said Passantino advised her to “keep your answers short, sweet, and simple, seven words or less. The less the committee thinks you know, the better, the quicker it’s going to go.”

But Hutchinson felt a strong obligation to tell the truth and got her own lawyer.

Suddenly, her story changed dramatically to one that described details we would never have heard.

“Former President Donald Trump grabbed for the steering wheel of his car and lunged at his security director while demanding to be taken to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, even though a White House lawyer warned he could be charged with ‘every crime imaginable,’ a former aide told the House panel investigating the Capitol attack Tuesday,” according to USA Today.

So now imagine the pressure times ten as a witness and times 100 as a co-defendant. That is precisely why Smith believes that Trump paying legal fees for witnesses and, as Vance notes, co-defendants.

This column is based primarily on a tweet by Charlie Savage of The New York Times.

I can be reached at and on Twitter at @JasonMiciak

Editor’s Note: This is an opinion piece reflecting the opinion of the author alone.

Jason Miciak
Jason Miciak is an associate editor and opinion writer for Occupy Democrats. He's a Canadian-American who grew up in the Pacific Northwest. He is a trained attorney, but for the last five years, he's devoted his time to writing political news and analysis. He enjoys life on the Gulf Coast as a single dad to a 15-year-old daughter. Hobbies include flower pots, cooking, and doing what his daughter tells him they're doing. Sign up to get all of my posts by email right here:

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