There’s a new line of attack against Trump’s tweets and it’s a strictly legal one. But also a soap opera of a mess politically. Here’s the relevant section of 18 U.S. Code 1512 – Tampering with a witness, victim, or informant:

(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;

(2)cause or induce any person to—

(A)

withhold testimony, or withhold a record, document, or other object, from an official proceeding;

(B)

alter, destroy, mutilate, or conceal an object with intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding;

(C)

evade legal process summoning that person to appear as a witness, or to produce a record, document, or other object, in an official proceeding; or

(D)

be absent from an official proceeding to which such person has been summoned by legal process;

or

(3)

hinder, delay, or prevent the communication to a law enforcement officer or judge of the United States of information relating to the commission or possible commission of a Federal offense or a violation of conditions of probation [1] supervised release,,[1] parole, or release pending judicial proceedings;

shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

Why are we talking about a part of the U.S. Code that seems targeted to deal with organized crime’s ability to threaten witnesses and intimidate or buy them into silence? This is clear from the rest of the section that deals with physical threats including murder of witnesses. Why is the possibility that the President could somehow be legally treated like some Mafia boss who with coded language threatens anybody who could provide damning evidence against them in court being given such weight in the media? Isn’t this some crank or Trump hater? Or out-of-work lawyer?

Because Trump White House advisor Kellyanne Conway’s husband is the out of work lawyer who’s tweeting back at Trump’s tweets and making the legal hints that could be seen as threats.

It started earlier this year when George Conway, a successful New York lawyer and a member of the Federalist Society whose only case at the Supreme Court – Morrison v. National Australia Bank – helped shift the way securities law is applied and won a unanimous decision at SCOTUS that was authored by no less than Justice Scalia, decided he didn’t want a job at DOJ running the civil division. It reportedly had to do with the Mueller probe and with Comey’s previous firing and George Conway apparently became upset about the Trump administration’s fierce criticism of the probe and of Mueller and Comey, and former AG Sessions as well.

So, George Conway began to tweet his discontent and this was accepted apparently as just the way he was; a stubborn contrarian. A Politico post back in May of this year:

Kellyanne Conway’s allies in the White House have worried, at times, about her husband’s tweets—worried about how they will be wielded in the snake-pit environment of the communications department, where enemies might try to use her husband as a weapon against her. “I had some angst for her,” said one former administration official. “My anxiety was that he was putting Kellyanne in a bad spot. But I don’t think it affected her at all. Her standing with the president is rock solid. She’s as loyal as it gets—sometimes to a fault.” The source added: “I would say the likely impact of George’s tweets inside the White House is negligible.”

And while the general reaction from inside the building was a giant “WTF” when he started expressing disagreement with the administration, a year in, they are generally now viewed with nothing more than an eye roll: It’s weird, but it’s just George being George. Most people now view his wife as one of the last inner-circle aides left whose loyalty the president counts on. One administration official said Kellyanne Conway is so close with the president that she would feel comfortable flagging her husband’s tweets for the president herself.

Not anymore. Eric Trump has decided that enough is enough and has attacked Husband George in a series of tweets. We may end up seeing this in the courts, as Democrats would love to use 18 U.S. 1512 as a pretext for obstruction of justice charges.

This will matter for Twitter and for future administrations, but one hopes that if a slightly absurd case like this does make its way to SCOTUS, free speech will prevail.

Meanwhile, we have another circus-like story unfolding in the Trump White House, with Kellyanne Conway suddenly being placed in a rather uncomfortable position. This is high drama legally and low comedy politically.

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