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Did Trump cross a line with his tweet about Roger Stone?

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Commenting on an investigation is not in and of itself a crime, but a Monday morning tweet by President Trump has some legal experts wondering if it crosses a line into witness tampering.

After returning from the G-20 summit in Argentina, Trump resumed his campaign of invective directed at special counsel Robert Mueller. One tweet in particular caught the eye of legal experts.

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Mueller’s team is looking into whether Stone, an informal adviser to Trump during the 2016 campaign, was in communication with WikiLeaks before the website publicized stolen emails from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. U.S. intelligence agencies have said the emails were stolen by Russian hackers.

President Trump at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires. (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
President Trump at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires. (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Stone, a longtime Trump associate, has repeatedly denied knowing in advance about the Clinton email releases, but messages between Stone and right-wing author Jerome Corsi have raised questions about Stone’s denials.

Stone said Sunday he would never “bear false witness” against the president.

George Conway, a lawyer, a frequent Trump critic and the husband of Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway, responded to the president’s tweet about Stone with a not-so-cryptic reference to the statutes that define obstruction of justice and witness tampering.

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The first of those statutes states:

“Whoever … corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice, shall be (guilty of an offense).”

Longtime Trump associate Roger Stone arrives to testify in the House Intelligence Committee’™s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Sept. 26, 2017. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Longtime Trump associate Roger Stone arrives to testify in the House Intelligence Committee’™s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Sept. 26, 2017. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said Trump’s tweet crossed a line because Stone is a “potential witness.”

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Former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal also weighed in.

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Stone himself had an answer to the suggestion that Trump’s tweet may have violated witness tampering statutes.

“Those who said the president’s warm and complimentary tweet constitutes witness tampering should be reminded that I have never been contacted by any investigative body and therefore, by definition, this cannot be true,” Stone told the Daily Caller’s Saagar Enjeti.

Last week, Corsi refused Mueller’s offer for a plea deal over his role as a suspected intermediary between Stone and WikiLeaks, saying he was prepared to spend the “rest of my life” in prison rather than “sign a lie.”

Last year, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was under investigation for his contacts with the Russian ambassador before the inauguration, told friends he had received a message from the president urging him to “stay strong.” Flynn later pleaded guilty to perjury and is cooperating with Mueller.

With Stone and Corsi facing possible legal jeopardy in Mueller’s probe, the president also took aim at another associate who has pleaded guilty and is helping the special counsel make his case: his longtime lawyer and self-described “fixer,” Michael Cohen:

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