Gambino-Lite: Accusing Trump Of A Half-Truth Does Not Constitute A Whole Crime

donald_trump_president-elect_portrait_croppedBelow is my column in The Hill Newspaper on the most recent allegation of criminal conduct by President Donald Trump or his family.  Added to the ever-lengthening list of clear crimes is now witness tampering despite the fact that it does not come close to any prior definition of that crime.  Both Professor Lawrence Tribe and CNN Legal Analyst Norm Eisen (Eisen previously said that Trump’s conversations with James Comey could constitute witness tampering) have claimed that Trump’s dictating or contributing to the statement of his son, Donald Jr., on the Russian meeting establishes the basis for such a charge.  I obviously disagree.

Here is the column.

This morning, the Washington Post reported that President Trump dictated the statement issued by Donald Trump Jr. about his infamous meeting with Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. The ink on the story was not dry when the airways were again crowded with experts claiming a new crime had been committed.

120406010959-laurence-tribe-headshot-story-bodyHarvard Professor Laurence Tribe stated that the dictating of a misleading statement about the meeting could constitute witness tampering. This is a new criminal allegation to add to an ever-lengthening list that, if true, would make the Trumps the greatest crime family since the Gambinos.

Tribe previously found compelling evidence of obstruction of justice, criminal election violations, Logan Act violations, extortion and possible treason by the president or his family. He also found grounds for impeachment while declaring that the Constitution clearly bars a self-pardon by Trump. Tribe, whom I have long respected as an academic, is not alone. It appears that every tweet or leak brings a new and compelling basis for indictment or impeachment or both.

There is an open frustration among many who want confirmation that we are finally close to a Trump indictment. It is neither satisfying nor entertaining to consistently say that this is far short of any cognizable criminal case. However, the cable news is filled with experts assuring viewers that we are closer than we are. It is like finding a scientist willing to assure viewers that the moon is half its actual distance. It may be an exciting prospect, but it makes any attempt a dangerous pursuit.

The latest story is a case in point. The Post reports that President Trump ignored staff recommendations and dictated the statement for his son to release. The statement said that Donald Jr. and the Russian lawyer had “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children” and that the subject of the meeting was “not a campaign issue at the time.” That misleading statement would deepen and extend the controversy. The meeting was clearly set up on the understanding that the Russian government wanted to help get Trump elected and would share damaging information.

However, a misleading statement is not a crime in itself — or half of Washington would be serving time. It is spin. It turned out to be remarkably ill-advised and self-defeating spin, but it was a classic effort to emphasize the least damaging part of the story. It was also dumb. The president knew there was a special counsel in the field investigating his role into a possible effort to obstruct the Russian investigation. There were various options in responding to the New York Times story about emails to Trump’s son.

This was the worst of all available options. The president prevented his staff from insulating himself from the story and creating some crush space between him and his controversy. By inserting himself into the controversy, he harmed both his and his son’s legal position. Trump, once again, made the White House the center of gravity for the scandal rather than Trump Tower or the campaign.

For those of us who have been skeptical of claims of any prima facie crime, it remains perplexing to watch the president constantly fulfill the narrative of his opponents by seeking to control and spin events. He is someone who is used to controlling an image or brand. It is difficult for him to resist framing a story, despite every indication that his involvement is creating the appearance of criminality, even without any strong evidence of a crime. He is like the guy who constantly runs down the street whenever a car alarm goes off.

440px-Director_Robert_S._Mueller-_III-1Special Counsel Robert Mueller would now be within his mandate to look into Trump’s involvement in this highly misleading public statement. That will again broaden the investigation and place the terminus at the Oval Office. However, it still does not make it a crime. Take Tribe’s witness tampering claim. The statutory provision in 18 U.S.C. 1512 addresses an effort to “corruptly persuade another person” to “influence” testimony of that person in the withholding of information. This language has never been extended to a public statement of this kind.

First, there was no existing demand for testimony from Trump Jr. on this meeting. Second, there is no evidence that Trump told his son to lie about the email or the original understanding of the meeting. This was not coaching for testimony but a public defense. Third, even if this were construed to be about testimony, the law contains an express affirmative defense (that needs only be proven by a preponderance of the evidence) that “the conduct consisted solely of lawful conduct” and that the defendant intended to encourage truthful testimony. The Trumps have emphasized what the meeting primarily addressed while downplaying what it was intended to address. They did not address the original purpose in the statement.

Look again at the statement explaining Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russians: “It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up. I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.”

Accounts of witnesses have supported the claims that it was a short meeting that lasted around 20 minutes, that they primarily discussed the Russian adoption issue, that it was arranged through an acquaintance, and that there was no follow-up. It is also true that the adoption issue “was not a campaign issue at the time.” What is misleading about the statement is what was omitted: that Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner went to a meeting ostensibly set up to collude with the Russians in the exchange of dirt on Clinton.

However, politicians in Washington routinely ignore damaging facts while highlighting less damaging facts. Ironically, the Clintons were famous for such spins. Indeed, with knowledge of an ongoing investigation in the field, Clinton repeatedly changed her account of the use of a personal server to transmit sensitive and classified information. It went from an assertion that no classified material was sent (which is untrue) to a statement that she never “received nor sent any material that was marked classified” (which is also untrue).

Wasserman SchultzOthers in the email controversy showed equally loose understandings of the truth in trying to spin out of the scandal. Debbie Wasserman Schultz publicly denied colluding to help Clinton defeat Bernie Sanders, which turned out to be untrue. Her replacement as chair of the Democratic National Committee, Donna Brazile, lied about her hacked emails being false and not sharing CNN questions for the presidential debates with Clinton.

If spins or selected accounts were criminal matters, Pennsylvania Avenue would be jammed with thousands of officials being frogmarched to the federal penitentiary. It would also allow a dangerous foray of federal prosecutors into political statements, potentially criminalizing some spins but ignoring others.

This was the worse of all spins. Rather than dampen down a controversy, it deepened it. Ironically, President Trump himself gave the special counsel an opportunity to further expand his investigation. However, if Mueller wants to investigate half-truths in Washington, this will be a permanent, multigenerational investigation. While a half-truth can be denounced as a half-lie, it does not make it a whole crime.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

84 thoughts on “Gambino-Lite: Accusing Trump Of A Half-Truth Does Not Constitute A Whole Crime

  1. Tribe also finds compelling evidence that Stephen Miller is a subhuman who shouldn’t be allowed in government. He tweeted, “There should be a law barring the payment of federal funds to non-humans. No further filters needed to expel Miller from the federal payroll.” Apparently, he doesn’t care for Accosta having his a$$ handed to him, which Miller did. The point is, do we really want to trust our legal education to a man who dismisses others as subhuman based on POLITICAL DIFFERENCES?

  2. After many years practicing law, I read many of Tribe’s rants over the years. At least now, I never intentional listen or read them. Since I read most of Prof. Turley’s writings, I read one more.

    • George
      August 3, 2017 at 2:48 PM

      “No less than a violent coup d’etat is taking place in America as we speak.

      Globalists are putting the finishing touches on the abrogation and annihilation of the U.S. Constitution.

      And Americans are drinking “Gambino-Lite.”

      George,

      The in the open Treasonous cold soft coup d’etat against Trump & us the citizens is going hot today!!!

      Trump! Fire DAG Rosenstien & Mueller Immediately. Arrest Mueller as a National Security Threat & Obstruction of Justice charges, filed Outside DC in red state courts.

      Trump needs to go nuclear & release the surveillance videos seized by the FBI of the 9/11/2001 attack on the pentagon, thus the Mueller Cover Up & the pedophile tapes that the NYPD & FBI of Congress/Senate/Judges/Wallst, etc, thus the Comey Cover Up.

      I’m not going to finish this yet, but Trump has to just declare a Nation Security Emergence & arrest the hell out of all of these traitors!

      Senators Unveil Two Bipartisan Bills To Block Trump Firing Mueller
      Tyler Durden’s picture
      by Tyler Durden
      Aug 3, 2017 2:57 PM

      http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-08-03/senators-unveil-two-bipartisan-bills-block-trump-firing-mueller

      Citizens, Do Not do Anything Violent,Wait!!!

      I assure you the Loyal people inside the Intel Dept’s & Special Forces are not going to put up with this Crap to take out The USC, a democratically elected President & us citizens.

  3. Who is the President? Who is NOT the President? Why is the “not presidents” who seems to share in the disgusting actions of the President? Fox had to retract a story Turley is on Fox, he should retract.

  4. America is being forced by the MSM, “respected” leaders and scholars to pay attention to a false secondary or derivative crime created out of whole cloth by liberals to effect a re-do of the election the redistributionist globalists just lost and remove the President who just won, while three murders related to the DNC, including that of Seth Rich, go “unsolved,” the resignations of three top DNC officials, including that of “Little Debbie In Big Trouble,” go unexplained, Hillary Clinton is proved guilty then corruptly exonerated as having no “intent” to mishandle classified material which the law does not require, political opponents of Obama are “wiretapped,” surveilled and “unmasked” during an election, and the government is deliberately permeated with enemy “holdovers” planted by Obama to conduct covert subversion operations against the duly elected President which succeeded him.

    No less than a violent coup d’etat is taking place in America as we speak.

    Globalists are putting the finishing touches on the abrogation and annihilation of the U.S. Constitution.

    And Americans are drinking “Gambino-Lite.”

  5. Prof T,

    You say you are “skeptical of claims of any prima facie crime.” Either there exists public evidence of a prima facie crime OR there isn’t…calling yourself a “skeptic” is a weak cop out.

    • roach, LOL! Jeff Flake is a wimpy, prissy, pretty boy looking to run against Trump. Now, anyone w/ a lick of sense knows the Swamp[that is Rep and Dems] are out to get Trump. And, the Rep are the most dangerous opponent for Trump because the Dems have been losing elections the past 2 decades and are impotent, even w/ the MSM in their back pocket.

      There is a paradigm shift underway. The Swamp people, again that is BOTH parties, are fudging their undies. I’m a betting man and I would not bet against the Swamp prevailing. Trump made a Swamp dweller his Chief of Staff. That may have been his biggest mistake.

      • Hear, hear!

        “I’m a betting man and I would not bet against the Swamp prevailing” – Signore Spinelli.

        “Big Donors” and Lobbyists have a nuclear arsenal of cash and “retirement plans” for agents, officers and employees.

        Money talks and bull—- (i.e. the Constitution and Bill of Rights) walks.

        Ben Franklin, we gave you “a republic, if you can keep it.”

        Americans couldn’t.

      • Writing is on the wall. Trump can’t survive FBI scrutiny of his corrupt finances with Russia. And his tirades against Sessions and “Swamp” GOP and all-out bizarre lying about anything and everything have now made him radioactive to his own party. His Presidency is a sinecure. It will go down as the worst in U.S. history.

        Historians and Political Scientists will matter of factly define it as a white racist back-lash to Obama’s presidency, as the first openly white supremacist administration in modern history stocked with top officials with openly racist histories, like Sessions, Miller, Gorka, Wheeler, and, of course, Trump himself.

        And with Trump’s recent effort to fight against white discrimination! to bar immigrants who don’t speak English, to dismantle civil rights offices at every level of the Fed. Govt, including, crucially Dept. of Education
        with Candice Jackson, who is on record being against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, there’s no escaping the fact ALL Trump supporters have no defense against charges they are in fact helping to support his racism.

        The worst thing is people like Jonathan Turley, who have power, fuel the power of this racism by pretending it doesn’t EXIST.

        • Effective dialog or even activist demonstrations can not be effective when wrapped up in witch hunts. That is a major problem with the current strategy. The Dems are basically saying, our brand of corruption is better. Also, do you really think the Democrats would solve any of these largely “identity” type issues which may be worth while but which, taken alone, do not get to the root economic cause and which the Democrats are at best inconsistent and often back stabbingly duplicitous about in their dealings?

          When the Democrats had both houses, all they could do was carry the water for tax cuts and other policies benefiting only the rich. Their excuses that Republican’s were holding the knife and “making us do it” were pathetic. If you keep swallowing that charade, it won’t be the fault of Republicans, no matter what anyone thinks.

          Wake up.

          • It is a very scary time; it’s clue these democratic sympathizing simpletons don’t seem to grasp the full picture. The deep state is using this witch hunt as a way to crank of the grief in Ukraine once again. The globalists want Putin to capitulate, and are capitalizing on these clueless and single minded Democrats to push their war plans. Arizona needs to call home McCain. They are simple mindless pawns in the bigger plan.

        • Racism, Sexism, yada yada yada. Don’t like Turley’s choices, then go to another blog and don’t let the door hit ya’ where the Good Lord split ya’. May I suggest Daily Kos. That’s a great echo chamber for a Koolaid lover like yourself.

        • Americans have the freedom of thought, speech, religion, assembly, press and every other conceivable natural and god-given freedom per the 9th amendment.

          Discrimination is the first step of freedom. Every person discriminates when he leaves his house in the morning and decides to turn right or left.

          What you propose is the forced imposition of the dictatorship of the Communist Manifesto.

          The American Founders passed the Naturalization Act of 1790 within the year following their adoption of the Constitution. It required citizens to be “…free white person(s)…” Was that an unconstitutional act by the people who wrote the Constitution?

          Majority rules.

          The right to private property precludes redistribution of wealth and affirmative action.

          People must accept their own characteristics and limitations.

          People must adapt to freedom.

          Freedom does not adapt to people…dictatorship does.

  6. Limited Hangout; to be followed by Modified, Limited Hangout

    The professor apparently confuses politics with the law.

    Apples and oranges … CNN and The Hill; different audiences and different ratings
    And
    Bread and Circuses … entertaining and distracting the people who knew their candidate was history’s destiny and the people who know somewhat how the system works, or should work

    “… Harvard Professor Laurence Tribe stated that the dictating of a misleading statement about the meeting could constitute witness tampering.”
    “… could … ” hypothetical or practical could. Regardless, preaching to the flock, ratings and revenue.

    “… It is neither satisfying nor entertaining to consistently ( sic ) say that this is far short of any cognizable criminal case.”

    But, it is. Please see above.

    “… The latest story is a case in point.”

    CNN ratings and revenue; the The Hill’s satisfying and entertaining supposed knowledge and superiority.

    “… Take Tribe’s witness tampering claim. The statutory provision in 18 U.S.C. 1512 addresses an effort to “corruptly persuade another person” to “influence” testimony of that person in the withholding of information. This language has never been extended to a public statement of this kind.”

    Entertaining, satisfying and inspiring the flock. To say noting of revenue and ratings. Not to mention, the chance to prance and dance on the “One Eyed God; The One And Only God!,
    Video; image and Sound.

    “… This was the worse of all spins. Rather than dampen down a controversy, it deepened it.”

    Limited Hangout; followed by Modified, Limited Hangout.
    Bread And Circuses!
    But, I repeat myself.

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