Witness tampering at the January 6 hearing? Cheney raises prospects

WASHINGTON – In the last hearing on January 6th, which was already noticed his notable momentsRep. Liz Cheney saved the most amazing for last.

In her closing remarks, the co-chair of the House Inquiry Committee said the panel learned that former President Donald Trump had recently attempted to contact a witness which “you haven’t seen at these hearings.”

The witness apparently recognized the caller ID and did not answer the phone, instead contacting a lawyer who then reported this to the committee. The committee, in turn, referred the matter to the Justice Department.

Although much about the call remains uncertain, including its purpose and intended recipient, the way it was described Tuesday raised the prospect that Trump or someone close to him was hoping to obtain testimony in the ongoing congressional hearings on March 6. to affect January. 2021, attack on the US Capitol.


While the committee has largely focused on compiling a historical record of the attack and Trump’s role in it, Cheney’s claims about the former president’s call added another layer to the investigation.

And it wasn’t the first time the committee had mentioned the possibility of witness tampering. Among its disclosures on the matter, the panel revealed last month that a witness had been contacted by someone it did not identify, reminding the individual that they were perceived as “loyal” and when testifying the next day was “the right thing to do would do .

The Justice Department declined to comment on Cheney’s disclosure, and it was not clear if prosecutors following the hearings would be able to pursue contacting witnesses.

Nonetheless, such contact is problematic because it is easy for prosecutors to interpret nefarious intentions therein, and may be illegal in cases where someone instructs a witness in an official proceeding to lie, not cooperate, or otherwise conduct an investigation to hinder.


“From a legal standpoint, my advice to my client is: ‘Don’t make a call, don’t tell anyone to make a call, don’t do anything that appears to be trying to influence a witness. said Michael Weinstein, a former Justice Department prosecutor and criminal defense attorney in New Jersey.

Witness tampering is relatively rare, and when prosecuted, it’s hardly a slugfest, Weinstein said, because prosecutors and defense attorneys often have differing opinions about the meaning and intent of a particular language to a witness.

Federal law even states that defendants charged with witness tampering can make an affirmative defense that their sole intent was to encourage or cause a witness to come forward truthfully.

“It’s a very difficult case, because when someone isn’t explicit — ie, ‘Don’t testify. If you testify, I’ll kill you’ — there’s a lot of nuance,” Weinstein said.

instances quoted by the Committee of January 6th seems to contain nuances. In one, a witness said they were told that “as long as I continue to be a team player, they know I’m on the right team. i’m doing the right thing I protect who I need to protect.” You know, I will continue to be in good favor in Trump World.”


The witness was reminded that Trump reads transcripts.

Another message described by the committee concerned a witness who was contacted by an individual who purported to be relaying a message from someone “who wants me to let you know that they are thinking of you.” He knows you are loyal and will do the right thing if you come forward with your testimony.”

Neither person was identified by the committee, but some media reports identified the person who received the message as Cassidy Hutchinson, an adviser to former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows.

The prime statute on witness tampering applies to federal proceedings, whether in Congress, the executive branch, or the judiciary. A separate law makes it a crime to intentionally obstruct a congressional process.

In general, prosecutors must show that an official procedure, such as e.g. a congressional hearing, was in progress with the intent to influence the testimony of a witness and the intent was to obscure the truth.


That witnesses have described being contacted, or that Trump is said to have a keen interest in testimony or cooperation that could harm him, is perhaps unsurprising. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation documented instances in which Trump or his associates made contact with people they feared could harm them.

Longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone was charged and then convicted of witness tampering, in which he was accused of pressuring a witness in a congressional investigation to do a “Frank Petangeli” — a reference to a character in The Godfather: Part II”, the lying legislature. Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has also been accused of attempting to influence witness testimony.

Mueller’s report cites a report by Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, that a few days after the FBI served a search warrant on Cohen, Trump called him and told the attorney to “hang in there” and “stay strong.” Trump friends told Cohen that the President loved him and had his back.


Back then, Trump’s business, the Trump Organization, paid for Cohen’s legal fees, however Cohen has said that has stopped after he began collaborating with Mueller’s investigation.

The Jan. 6 committee is also investigating payments and fees from Trump that went to people asked to appear before the panel.

Trump’s sprawling fundraiser paid at least $4.8 million in “legal fees” to more than 30 different firms between February 2021 and May this year, campaign finance disclosures show.

This includes a $50,000 payment to a law firm in which one of Steve Bannon’s attorneys is a partner. Bannon will face trial next week for allegedly defying the 1/6 Committee’s subpoena. His attorney, M. Evan Corcoran, did not respond to an email seeking comment.


Separately, the committee has determined that Trump’s political action committee made a $1 million charitable donation to a foundation, the Conservative Partnership Institute, where Meadows is a senior partner. That post was made in July 2021, months before Meadows stopped working with the committee. A lawyer for Meadows declined to comment Wednesday.

The money was referenced last month by a committee investigator who claimed large sums Trump collected from supporters to spread the lie that the election was stolen went to his PAC.

But proving that the payment to Meadows’ foundation was in any way improper or intended to influence his testimony would be a major challenge, said Steven Lubet, a law professor at Northwestern University.

“You would have to prove there was corrupt motive and you would have to show the intent was to obstruct, delay, prevent or influence testimony,” Lubet said. “And the transfer of the money doesn’t establish any of those requirements, so there would have to be additional proof that those things happened.”



Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Brian Slodysko in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/07/13/witness-tampering-at-jan-6-hearing-cheney-raises-prospect/ Witness tampering at the January 6 hearing? Cheney raises prospects

Sarah Y. Kim

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