Witness Tampering: A High Federal Crime


Yesterday’s news was replete with outlandish Shakespearean irony. Not the sort one would find in a comedy like All’s Well that Ends Well, but like that of a tragedy along the lines of Hamlet or Julius Caesar.


Spirited Reasoners may have trouble convincing future generations that the following three events actually occurred at approximately the same moment:


(1) Former U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, was testifying to Congress about the sense of intimidation she felt in speaking about the actions of President Donald Trump and his shadow-cabinet enforcers;


(2) Former Trump associate Roger Stone, Jr. was convicted on all counts of obstruction of justice, making false statements, and witness tampering; and


(3) President Trump tweeted several attacks against Ms. Yovanovitch while she was testifying, attacks which led to additional testimony by Marie Yovanovitch, who referred to the tweets as “very intimidating.”


We may have equal trouble convincing future generations that the attitude of many Trump supporters about these matters is as follows: “Yeah. That’s what he said. That’s what he did. So what? Get over it.”


Maybe obedience to the law doesn’t matter to some folks anymore. But just in case a few Trump supporters might be swayed at least a tad by the letter of the law, here’s the relevant portion of 18 U. S. Code §1512:


(b)Whoever knowingly uses intimidation, threatens, or corruptly persuades another person, or attempts to do so, or engages in misleading conduct toward another person, with intent to—
(1) influence, delay, or prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding
. . . shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.


There are, of course, defenses to criminal charges (one of which is insanity. I’m just saying.). But if we keep in mind not only the words but the spirit behind this particular statute, we are led to the sobering conclusion that our President and his associates appear to have been engaging, and continue to engage, in some heavy-duty intimidation of the sort proscribed by federal law.


So, it’s not just the “Bribery” referred to by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in her remarks to the media yesterday, that makes Donald Trump’s Ukraine involvement impeachable. It’s also his track record of committing “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” of the sort prohibited by 18 U. S. Code §1512.


Those words—”Bribery or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors”—appear together in Article II, Section 4 of the U. S. Constitution as grounds for the impeachment of a President.