An assistant prosecutor in the Watergate probe that led to Richard Nixon’s resignation says President Donald Trump appears to have been trying to influence the jury hearing the tax evasion and bank fraud case against his former campaign chair Paul Manafort.
“Because the jury isn’t sequestered, they may see this. I know they’re not supposed to watch the news or hear the news, but it’s so all pervasive that I worry that they might,” Jill Wine-Banks told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell on Thursday.
On Wednesday morning, a day after the trial of Manafort kicked off in a Virginia courtroom, Trump tweeted:
“[Trump’s words] are really a message to them in the same way that I think the Arpaio pardon was a message to witnesses -- you don’t have to cooperate, don’t worry about it. You can be in contempt of court and I’ll pardon you,” Wine-Banks said, referring to Trump’s pardoning of ex-Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio who was convicted of contempt of court in a racial profiling case.
“So I think he’s sending a message. And he also, in addition … was also very complimentary to Paul Manafort by saying that he had worked for Ronald Reagan and [Bob] Dole and that he’s a political operative.
“So he’s going out of his way to say things that were laudatory about this defendant, and it’s just simply inappropriate for a president of the United States to use a public means of communicating, which Twitter is … I think he’s using a public forum to send a message to the jury that he should not have his former campaign chair convicted of anything.”
Federal prosecutors allege Manafort did not pay taxes on millions of dollars he made from work for a Ukrainian political party. He has pleaded not guilty.
Wine-Banks, one of the first female lawyers in the organized crime division of the Justice Department served on the staff of special prosecutor Leon Jaworski during the Watergate hearings and cross-examined Nixon's secretary Rose Mary Woods about the 18-1/2 minute gap on the Watergate tapes.
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