Fugees' Pras Michel plans subpoenas for Obama and Trump

·2 min read

The Fugees' Pras Michel is seeking to force two former presidents — Donald Trump and Barack Obama — to testify at his looming trial on campaign-finance, foreign-agent and witness tampering charges, a defense attorney said Tuesday.

"We're planning on calling former President Trump and former President Obama," defense lawyer David Kenner said during a hearing held by videoconference at U.S. District Court in Washington. "These subpoenas are going out for service today."

Michel was indicted in 2019 on charges that he conspired with a Malaysian businessman, Jho Low, to transfer more than $21 million to the U.S. to back efforts for Obama's reelection in 2012. A revised indictment filed last year linked those donations to an influence effort that allegedly continued into Trump's term and was allegedly aimed at stymieing a Justice Department investigation into the looting of Malaysia's sovereign wealth fund, 1MDB.

Former Justice Department attorney George Higginbotham, former Republican National Committee deputy fundraising chair Elliott Broidy, and California businesswoman Nickie Lum Davis have already pleaded guilty in connection with the investigation into the influence-peddling effort. However, before leaving office, Trump granted Broidy a full pardon.

Kenner did not elaborate on what testimony Trump or Obama could offer about the effort, but said the value of their accounts should be evident to prosecutors. "I believe it's all relevant," Kenner said.

"The government is not intending to call any former presidents," Justice Department lawyer John Keller told Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly during the half-hour-long court session Tuesday. However, Keller said the government does plan to call two high level officials from the Trump White House: former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and one of his deputies, Ricky Waddell. Neither is expected to resist testifying, Keller said.

Kollar-Kotelly expressed concern that efforts to draw the former presidents and other high-profile individuals into the case could complicate plans for Michel's long-delayed jury trial to go forward in March. The judge was adamant Tuesday that, even if the former presidents seek to quash the subpoenas for their testimony, the trial will begin as scheduled on March 27.

"I do not have any time to push this case back, so you're going on the dates you've got," said Kollar-Kotelly, an appointee of President Bill Clinton.

Michel — who has pleaded not guilty in the case — has been free pending trial, but his legal troubles appear to have contributed to a decision to cancel an international reunion tour last year for the American hip-hop group best known for the songs "Ready or Not" and "Killing Me Softly."