Twitter, which President Trump says allows him to communicate directly with the American public, could wind up being a valuable piece of evidence that leads to his eventual destruction.
As Special Counsel Robert Mueller begins his investigation into Trump and his associates and their possible connections to Russian agents or other entities which may have played a role in the 2016 election, legal experts say one focus for Mueller will indeed be Trump’s twitter account, which features more than 35,000 time-stamped posts that date all the way back to 2009.
Even though Trump may not currently be the primary target of the investigation being conducted by the FBI, his tweets could still be used by investigators to establish whether or not the president and his associates are being truthful in the explanations they give under oath about the nature of their contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Or, as Peter Zeidenberg, who served on the Justice Department’s special prosecution team during the George W. Bush-era, noted:
“They’re a gold mine. They help paint a picture.”
Reports in recent days have suggested that Trump’s legal team is attempting to vet his tweets before he sends them since all of the social media postings could be used against him. For example, the posts might be utilized to show that the president was attempting to influence potential witnesses in the case, as when he tweeted out:
Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 31, 2017
Michael Forde, a trial lawyer in Chicago commented:
“I think an investigator would be curious as to whether the president, who necessarily exists in a very unique bubble, was using his tweets and other public statements to communicate with, coordinate with, or direct witnesses.”
In the case of the Flynn tweet, the question arises: Was Trump sending a message to Flynn that he might be willing to issue a pardon to him should he wind up being prosecuted and convicted? Or was it just a random thought which crossed the president’s mind?
Along that same line, Trump’s May 12 post warning that former FBI Director James Comey should be careful could be seen as a form of witness intimidation. Here’s the tweet in question:
James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
In the age of social media, tweets or other postings made on sites such as Facebook or Reddit are considered by courts to be a legal form of communication, the same as a letter, an email, or a phone call. Former Watergate prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste said:
“There isn’t any reason why a tweet wouldn’t be treated like any other public statement. As long as it is properly attributed to the author and verified as such it would constitute a statement.”
What if Trump tries to say he wasn’t serious with his postings and therefore they aren’t valid? Zeidenberg doubts that would be a viable line of defense:
“In another world you can imagine someone in his shoes saying, ‘Look, this was background noise to me. I have a government to run. I have lawyers to take care of those issues. I’m worried about what’s on my plate and other people can worry about this other stuff. I never thought it was a big problem because I knew there was nothing to it. That defense is foreclosed now effectively.”
So by all means, keep tweeting, Donald. It provides more ammunition for the investigators to use against you.
This article was originally published by the same author at LiberalAmerica.org