Below is my column in the Hill on the latest twitter controversy. While Trump counsel John Dowd has insisted that he merely used “sloppy” drafting, news organizations are reporting that White House Counsel Don McGahn told Trump (before the firing of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn) that Flynn had misled FBI agents in his interview. In yesterday’s press conference, Sarah Sanders refused to say when Trump first learned that Flynn had lied to the FBI. That brings us back to Dowd and the breathtakingly dumb mistake in sending out a tweet to millions with an admission against interest under the President’s name.
Here is the column:
It is truly a scandal for our times, the weekend many in Washington were asked,”What did President Trump tweet and when did he tweet it?” The Watergate-esque question has arisen after yet another Trump tweet gone horribly awry, smashing into an only recently reconstructed defense by his legal team. After the plea agreement with Michael Flynn, in which he agreed to cooperate with the special counsel, Trump sent out a tweet that sent gasps through the Beltway: “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”
Among the more than 107,000 “likes” were the entire legal team behind special counsel Robert Mueller. The reason? Three words: “and the FBI.” The tweet states that when Flynn was “fired” on Feb. 13, Trump already knew that he had lied to the FBI. However, the next day, Trump reportedly buttonholed then FBI Director James Comey to ask him to go easy on Flynn, saying, according to Comey’s contemporaneous memo, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” Trump this weekend denied that he ever asked Comey to drop the investigation against Flynn.
If Trump knew of Flynn’s crime and pressured the FBI director to drop the investigation, it would materially change the current status of the obstruction of justice investigation. This is why the tweet would be viewed as a “statement against interest.” Trump is saying that he was aware in February that Flynn not only lied to the FBI but did so on the subject of prior communications with the Russians.
Trump has repeatedly undermined his defense (and those of some of his closest aides) with ill-considered and ill-timed tweets. This one, however, is cataclysmic. The response of the White House the day after the tweet disaster only made the situation worse and, if possible, more bizarre. The White House declared that Trump was not the author of his tweet but that this truly moronic message was penned by one of his lawyers, John Dowd, who reportedly told ABC that he was responsible for the “sloppy” tweet.
First and foremost, a criminal admission against interest is not “sloppy,” it is suicidal. Misspellings and typos are sloppy. Saying that you have known about the crimes of a close aide for almost a year is a bit more than an omitted preposition or a double negative. (This follows another “sloppy” moment by the Trump legal team, when personal counsel Ty Cobb was overheard at a popular D.C. restaurant discussing undisclosed material documents being withheld by White House Counsel Don McGahn.)
Second, this might not help. The White House previously has stated, and various courts have repeated the statement, that Trump’s tweets are his official presidential statements. Moreover, statements of counsel are generally treated as statements of clients. The White House is clearly moving to deny that the words accurately reflected the president’s position, and that retraction will blunt the legal impact. However, it is now part of an already conflicting array of statements made by Trump or on his behalf.
Third, Mueller may not believe Dowd’s account. The admission of knowledge of a crime places this tweet squarely within Mueller’s investigation. If Dowd is lying about this being entirely and solely his work, the situation will get even worse for both of them. This could make Dowd a possible witness, as opposed to counsel in the investigation. The attorney-client privilege has an exception for evidence of crimes or fraud.
Finally, these Twitter misfires are simply getting old. The fact that Trump’s lawyers are apparently little better in showing a minimal level of control and foresight is chilling. This tweet made a highly precarious situation far, far worse. It is not clear what is more bizarre: the fact that, after Trump tweets were used repeatedly by courts against his administration, the president still insists on tweeting, or that he is allegedly using counsel to do so.
There is, of course, another option, which is to stop tweeting. It is not even a necessity to stop all tweeting. Trump (or his designated “tweet counsel”) can still hold forth on everything from Rosie O’Donnell to radical Islam. Just stop tweeting about pending cases and investigations.
What is truly breathtaking is that Trump had a clear, consistent defense that he and his lawyer just tweeted away. The firing of Flynn created a firewall for the White House in the investigation. The administration tossed Flynn as soon as it reportedly learned of his misrepresentation to Vice President Mike Pence. He was a 24-day wonder who barely outlasted Anthony Scaramucci as a White House employee.
The Flynn “information” filed by Mueller actually had positive news for Trump in this respect: There is still no clear evidence of a criminal conspiracy with the Russians, and Flynn’s meetings were not particularly surprising for an incoming administration dealing with developing Russian and Israeli policies. Just as the Trump team seemed on terra firma, however, the ground shook with another self-defeating tweet.
It is death by tweet, and it is hard to watch. If this was the work of Dowd, he is the legal version of Ambrose Burnside, the Union general described by President Lincoln as the only person capable of “such a coup as to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.” Burnside repeatedly had trouble with bridges in battles. Just as he would have been wise to avoid those spans, the Trump White House would be wise to avoid those tweets, long the forum for its repeated and greatest self-inflicted wounds.
That is assuming however that there is some intelligent design at play. Instead, we are more likely to simply have a new tweet declaring, “Lawyer admits to mimicking my style and making incriminating statements against interest. Sad!” And the tweets go on.
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.
75 thoughts on “TwitterGate: What Did Trump Tweet And When Did He Tweet It?”
The common room in Bedlam again.
Too much technical legalese for me.
Or is it legalsleeze?
Trump or Hillary. Which do you want? I voted for the blond itchBay and regret it.
Two bleach blondies
Today, Sen. Corey Booker released information about the Congressional testimony of KT McFarland (a Trump appointee) regarding Russia. She is married to a well-known investment banker.
The whole draining the swamp thing, what a hoot.
If I was a Martian and you told me that “a hostile foreign government assisted this strange creature (we call President Trump) in “winning” the Electoral College” — I’d want to hear exactly how they did that and how they knew which votes to change in which states and how they knew to target just the right number of voters in states that hadn’t been won by a Republican in more than 20 years and how they knew just how many votes were needed so that Hillary could still win the popular vote, so it wouldn’t look too suspicious, while they helped Trump win the Electoral College — because Holy Cow! that would be out of this world to strategically pull off. And if we had a president in office who pulled off something like that? I’d elect him for another term.
This was a reply to Natacha.
No, T Bob, the majority of WE don’t call Fatso President at all. Most of US want him gone. Check out the opinion polls: historically unpopular at this stage of an administration. Historically few achievements. You want details about Russia’s involvement in the election, beyond that already disclosed?– stay turned. Mueller is lining up the evidence and convictions. Fatso will probably leave of his own accord in lieu of being carried out by Federal marshals, but not until after he’s done as much damage as he can.
Trump is the kind of guy that would throw women and children out of the life boat.
Obama and Clinton are type of people that would let them go down with the ship. So there’s that.
Yeah, yeah. Historically this and historically that. Funny how you don’t mention Hillary’s historically humiliating LOSS to Donald Trump. And again, it wasn’t because of “The Russians.” No, it was because Hillary is THAT bad, that entitled, that lazy, that corrupt, that concussed, that inept, that incompetent, that overrated, that much of a fraud, and yes, that BIG of a Loser. And a two-time loser at that – with a capital “L”!
Most of the country – despite the major media propaganda campaign against him – know the good Trump is doing for the country. And the working people of the country are behind Trump. These are the people who matter to Trump and these are the people who make this country great. You, sweetheart, need to stop watching all the cable TV news, including MSNBC and CNN, right now, today!
I am certified and regulated for integrity. How about you?
JT wrote “The attorney-client privilege has an exception for evidence of crime or fraud”.
The “exception to the exception” would seem to be the dual hats that Cheryl Miller wore as Hillary’s Chief of Staff, then was evidently allowed to invoke attorney client privilege.
This was during the email “matter”, and both Hillary and Ms. Mills were both key figures in the “matter”.
That, and the revelation that Peter Strzok was the author of “extremely careless” phrase to replace the words ” gross negligence”, understandably
raise suspicions about how serious the DOJ/FBI was about the email issue, or “matter”.
I agree and your post will have the Left crying what about-ism. In that political game, President Trump has all the trump. He knows it, and so do his supporters.
The Hillary/Obama/FBI/democrat conspiracy is the greatest crime in American political history – a coup d’etat in America.
The falsely created “Russian Collusion” special investigation is a covert operation of the Clinton/Obama/FBI/democrat 2016 campaign. The FBI, Intel, Obama, Hillary, democrats et al. have conspired to manipulate the FBI, “unmask,” “wiretap” and surveill people around Trump, create false documents, such as the “Trump-Russia Dossier” generated by the ex-spy and democrat, Christopher Steele, and create a fictitious scenario allowing radical liberals to demand a special prosecutor. That conspiracy is on a course to nullify and overturn the results of a free and fair election.
No “Russian Collusion” by President Trump will ever be discovered or proved because it does not exist and the FBI, Obama, Hillary, democrats et al. know that.
Hillary was supposed to win.
None of the machinations of the FBI, Obama, Hillary and the shadow government were ever expected to see the light of day or intended to be otherwise exposed.
A special prosecutor must be appointed to investigate the FBI/Hillary/Obama/democrat conspiracy to overturn the 2016 election and conduct a coup d’etat in America.
For the sake of the Constitution and America, Congress must open a full investigation of this coup d’etat and President Trump must pardon all the victims who have been disaffected and damaged by this treasonous coup d’etat.
No, George you need to stop listening to Limbaugh and Fox News. The issues of the day aren’t President Obama, Hillary or Bill Clinton, Democrats or anyone from the past. It is Fatso and his collusion with the Russians and the crooks in his Administration. That is current news. The endless pivoting, endless attempts to turn the tables, endless attempts to create “scandals” that don’t exist are all attempted covers for what’s really going on. Trump is a big, fat showman who has gotten away with multiple business bankruptcies, cheating craftsmen, sexually assaulting women, and who wanted to be President because of what he perceives as the power and prestige of this office. All for his yuge, yuge ego. Now, he’s trying to stir the pot in the Middle East, which will no doubt end up with unnecessary deaths and political unrest. He will leave in disgrace. Maybe his sons will also end up as convicted felons, like Flynn and Manafort. All for his yuge, yuge ego. That’s the real story, and that’s what all legitimate mainstream news outlets report.
The issues of the day aren’t President Obama, Hillary or Bill Clinton, Democrats or anyone from the past.
Bwahahahahahaha! President Trump is so inside your head that it’s left no room for anything else. You are a treat! Thanks for the laughs. 🙂
– I can’t remember if anger and grief were two separate stages of recovery for those with TDS.
The “acceptance” part seems kinda slow in coming for some.
Ever notice how you always say stop listening to Fox News and Limbaugh, but never say to stop listening to MSNBC, especially that foaming at the mouth Rachel Maddow character, or even much of CNN? Nope, for you it is just stop watching Fox News. You sound just like Barack Obama who spewed the same hogwash every time he opened his mouth. Are you brainwashed or something?
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