Legal experts were dumbfounded by Donald Trump's pledge to pardon the Jan. 6 rioters, and they agreed the shocking comments at his Texas rally suggested he was feeling the strain from the investigations into his business and political activity.
The former president's anxiety was glaringly apparent when he urged his supporters to carry out “the biggest protests we have ever had in Washington DC, in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere” if he was charged in criminal investigations there -- but legal experts say those threats pose additional legal problems for Trump, reported The Guardian.
"[Trump] may have shot himself in the foot,” said Dennis Aftergut, a former federal prosecutor who is now of counsel to Lawyers Defending American Democracy.
The comments could be seen as obstruction of justice, and certainly show his support for the violent insurrection, which Aftergut said could be used as evidence of his corrupt intent on Jan. 6.
“Criminal intent can be hard to prove," Aftergut said, "but when a potential defendant says something easily seen as intimidating or threatening to those investigating the case it becomes easier."
A former U.S. Attorney in Georgia said Trump's comments could be seen as intimidation against witnesses or grand jury members, which he said was a felony in that state.
"[Trump] is essentially calling for vigilante justice against the justice system," said Michael Moore, the former U.S. Attorney. "He’s not interested in the pursuit of justice but blocking any investigations."
Other former prosecutors agreed, saying the Texas rally threats were part of a broad pattern Trump has engaged in for years.
“Our criminal laws seek to hold people accountable for their purposeful actions,” said Paul Pelletier, a former acting chief of the fraud section the Department of Justice. “Trump’s history of inciting people to violence demonstrates that his recent remarks are likely to cause a disruption of the pending investigations against him and family members.”
If anyone carries out those threats to impede those investigations, Pelletier said Trump could be in even more trouble.
“Should his conduct actually impede any of these investigations, federal and state obstruction statutes could easily compound Mr Trump’s criminal exposure," Pelletier said.
Aftergut said the former president also plainly stated his corrupt intent for holding the "Stop the Steal" rally on Jan. 6, where he sent his supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol.
“Trump handed federal prosecutors another gift when he said that Mike Pence should have ‘overturned the election,'" Aftergut said.
Even veteran Republican operatives agree that Trump seems increasingly nervous about the investigations.
“Trump’s prosecutor attacks are wearing thin with the broad Republican electorate,” said Arizona GOP consultant Chuck Coughlin “He’s trying to whip up the base for his personal gain. This is another iteration of Trump’s attacks on the government.”
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