The Corner

U.S.

What Counts as Witness Tampering?

The Wall Street Journal reports:

A friend of Christine Blasey Ford told FBI investigators that she felt pressured by Dr. Ford’s allies to revisit her initial statement that she knew nothing about an alleged sexual assault by a teenage Brett Kavanaugh, which she later updated to say that she believed but couldn’t corroborate Dr. Ford’s account, according to people familiar with the matter.

Leland Keyser, who Dr. Ford has said was present at the gathering where she was allegedly assaulted in the 1980s, told investigators that Monica McLean, a retired Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and a friend of Dr. Ford’s, had urged her to clarify her statement, the people said.

This may explain why Keyser ended up in the rather silly — not to mention legally convenient — position of saying that she believed Ford, but also couldn’t remember any of the incidents that she supposedly saw.

This revelation has prompted many to suggest that McLean is guilty of witness tampering. Is she? Well, maybe. But it would be a heavy lift. 18 U.S. Code § 1512 holds that one is guilty of “tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant” if one “knowingly uses intimidation, threatens, or corruptly persuades another person, or attempts to do so, or engages in misleading conduct toward another person.” Moreover, this law applies to those who “influence, delay, or prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding.” Per § 1515(a)(1) “a proceeding before the Congress” counts as an “official proceeding.”

But the language in 18 U.S. Code § 1512 is “corruptly persuades.” Was McLean’s effort “corrupt”? That, I think, would be much harder to prove. It is not a crime to talk to a witness and try to convince them that they are wrong, or that they are failing to remember a pertinent detail. Nor is it illegal to tell them that they should “believe” what another person says, even as they catastrophically undermine the story they say they think is true. Unless Keyser came forward with evidence that she was bullied, bribed, or threatened in some way, it seems unlikely that this will lead anywhere legally. (That is in no way to say that it shouldn’t be taken as yet more evidence that Ford’s claim is extremely weak.)

Certainly, I would like somebody to ask Senator Blumenthal what he thinks of all this. Before NBC’s story blew up in its face, he was throwing around accusations of “witness tampering” with his customary reckless abandon:

Now that the shoe has been passed to the other foot, does he still think that the bar is that low?

Most Popular

White House

The Impeachment Clock

Adam Schiff’s impeachment inquiry is incoherent. Given the impossibility of a senatorial conviction, the only strategy is to taint the president with the brand of impeachment and weaken him in the 2020 election. Yet Schiff seems to have no sense that the worm has already turned. Far from tormenting Trump and ... Read More
White House

The Impeachment Clock

Adam Schiff’s impeachment inquiry is incoherent. Given the impossibility of a senatorial conviction, the only strategy is to taint the president with the brand of impeachment and weaken him in the 2020 election. Yet Schiff seems to have no sense that the worm has already turned. Far from tormenting Trump and ... Read More
Economy & Business

Who Owns FedEx?

You may have seen (or heard on a podcast) that Fred Smith so vehemently objects to the New York Times report contending that FedEx paid nothing in federal taxes that he's challenged New York Times publisher A. G. Sulzberger to a public debate and pointed out that "the New York Times paid zero federal income tax ... Read More
Economy & Business

Who Owns FedEx?

You may have seen (or heard on a podcast) that Fred Smith so vehemently objects to the New York Times report contending that FedEx paid nothing in federal taxes that he's challenged New York Times publisher A. G. Sulzberger to a public debate and pointed out that "the New York Times paid zero federal income tax ... Read More
Elections

Warren’s Wealth Tax Is Unethical

Senator Warren would impose a 2 percent annual tax on wealth above $50 million, and a 6 percent annual tax on wealth above $1 billion. These numbers may seem small, but remember that they would be applied every year. With wealth taxes, small numbers have large effects. Applied to an asset yielding a steady ... Read More
Elections

Warren’s Wealth Tax Is Unethical

Senator Warren would impose a 2 percent annual tax on wealth above $50 million, and a 6 percent annual tax on wealth above $1 billion. These numbers may seem small, but remember that they would be applied every year. With wealth taxes, small numbers have large effects. Applied to an asset yielding a steady ... Read More
Immigration

The ‘Welfare Magnet’ for Immigrants

That term refers to a controversial concept -- and a salient one, given the Trump administration's efforts to make it harder for immigrants to use welfare in the U.S. A new study finds that there's something to it: Immigrants were more likely to come to Denmark when they could get more welfare there. From the ... Read More
Immigration

The ‘Welfare Magnet’ for Immigrants

That term refers to a controversial concept -- and a salient one, given the Trump administration's efforts to make it harder for immigrants to use welfare in the U.S. A new study finds that there's something to it: Immigrants were more likely to come to Denmark when they could get more welfare there. From the ... Read More