Former WH ethics chief: Trump’s ‘reckless tweeting’ puts him at legal risk

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Norm Eisen, the former White House special counsel for ethics under President Obama, has written an op-ed published by USA Today in which he warns that President Trump’s “reckless tweeting” about the indictments in the Russia investigation could put him at legal risk.

“To say the least, it is very unusual for the President of the United States to attack a witness who is cooperating with the United States an ongoing federal investigation,” Eisen writes.

“It raises obstruction of justice and witness intimidation questions, just as it did when the president similarly went after former FBI Director James Comey. Think about it: When you are a witness in a case that threatens the most powerful man in the world, and he attacks you publicly, that is scary.”

Eisen was referring to Trump’s tweets about George Papadopoulos, the former campaign aide who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians. His indictment was unsealed Monday, along with a 12-count indictment against former campaign chair Paul Manafort and associate Rick Gates.

The criminal complaint reports that Papadopolous, who served as a foreign policy advisor for the Trump presidential campaign, “made material false statements and material omissions during an interview with FBI agents on January 27, 2017.”

The complaint further states that “at the time of the interview, the FBI had an open investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, including the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the Campaign and Russia’s efforts.”

Trump tweeted several times on Tuesday in response to the indictments, repeating his claim that there was “no collusion” between his campaign and Russia. He also noted that the charges against Manafort and Gates covered a period before they joined the campaign, and called Papadopoulos a “liar” and “low-level volunteer.”

Eisen claims that Trump’s tweets will send the wrong message to special counsel Bob Mueller.

“By attacking Papadopoulos as a liar, Trump hardly signals his good faith to Mueller,” Eisen points out. “After all, Mueller is offering Papadopoulos’s testimony as true. So Trump is not just assaulting the special counsel’s cooperator; Trump is contradicting Mueller, and maybe even hinting that Mueller is intentionally offering the testimony of a liar.”

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