Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Twitter and the President

President Donald Trump cannot be stopped from tweeting and otherwise talking about the Russia investigation. But by continuing to expostulate, he risks not only incriminating himself but irritating the prosecutor overseeing the probe.

Some observers speculated that the arrival of Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, would spell the end of the president’s off-the-cuff comments. Not so. Whatever Kasowitz has told his long time client, the president is still running his mouth.

On Sunday morning, the president tweeted: “I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible. Totally illegal? Very ‘cowardly!’”

Two days earlier, during a testy Rose Garden press conference, he accused Comey of perjury during his testimony last Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee. In addition, Trump declared that the hearing failed to establish that he’d colluded with the Russians to manipulate the 2016 election or tried to stop the federal probe of whether Trump aides helped the Russians with their hacking. “No collusion. No obstruction. He is a leaker,” Trump said, the last part referring again to Comey, whom Trump fired as FBI director in May. Asked if he would testify under oath, Trump answered, “100 percent.”

So, why does this matter?

First, there’s the attorney’s rule of thumb that a client anywhere in the vicinity of a criminal investigation ought to keep his trap shut. “It is 100 percent clear that the rule in the normal criminal case is not a word from the client,” says Harry Litman, a former federal prosecutor who teaches at UCLA Law School and practices with the firm Constantine Cannon.

Trying to stop the President Donald Trump from tweeting will be the bigger challenge.

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