On CNN Thursday, former federal prosecutor Elie Honig explained the significance of the new obstruction of justice investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who is facing allegations he worked with an indicted former tax official in Seminole County to transport a minor over state lines for sex.
"It's a big deal if there was obstruction here, because they can use that to show a consciousness of guilt, right?" asked anchor Poppy Harlow.
"Yeah, Poppy, this is bad news for Matt Gaetz on two levels, really," said Honig. "First of all, it's a federal crime, and a serious one, to obstruct justice. People get charged with obstruction of justice all the time and go to jail for obstruction of justice. Obstruction enables prosecutors to argue to a jury what we call 'consciousness of guilt,' meaning the really simple logical idea that you don't obstruct justice unless you have a reason. You don't try to get people to change or alter their testimony unless there's something that you're trying to hide. That can be a really powerful argument."
"To Paula's point, this investigation is expanding. It's not shrinking," said anchor Jim Sciutto. "It's been a couple of weeks now since Gaetz's associate Joel Greenberg made a deal with prosecutors. We discussed this as also bad news for Gaetz because to get such a deal, he'd often have to promise cooperation regarding other witnesses. I just wonder what the timeline is, given your experience as a federal prosecutor. It has been an investigation that's existed for months. Still no charges. Does that indicate anything to you?"
"Jim, so on the one hand, if you look at the plea papers for Joel Greenberg, they are really detailed," said Honig. "Prosecutors are making clear in those papers they have a lot of evidence. They cite texts, financial records. When you look at that in a vacuum, you think they're pretty far along. They have to be close to next steps. On the other hand, the nature of investigations is they tend to go off in different routes and directions. This is an expansion of this investigation. That happens all the time. You talk to one witness, they lead you to another witness. They're talking to the ex-girlfriend. Maybe the ex-girlfriend will know things the first witness didn't know, and that leads you down another road. As a prosecutor, you're trying to strike the balance between moving as quickly as possible, but also developing all the key facts of your case."
Elie Honig on Matt Gaetz obstruction probe www.youtube.com