One of the many important facets of special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry is his observation that President Donald Trump’s use of Twitter and other mass media could subvert the criminal-justice system. As Mueller’s report notes, Trump used his media muscle to discourage potential witnesses from cooperating and to raise the possibility of a presidential pardon as a reward for silence.
“While it may be more difficult to establish that public-facing acts were motivated by a corrupt intent, the President’s power to influence actions, persons, and events is enhanced by his unique ability to attract attention through use of mass communications,” the report says. “And no principle of law excludes public acts from the scope of obstruction statutes. If the likely effect of the acts is to intimidate witnesses or alter their testimony, the justice system’s integrity is equally threatened.”
This should have been a warning to Trump that his trail of tweets could be construed as evidence for such federal offenses as intimidating or retaliating against a witness. But even after the Mueller report spelled that out for him, Trump persists in a broad effort to bend the justice system to his benefit.
Mueller seems to indicate that this misconduct goes beyond Trump’s attempts to interfere with the Russia investigation. “Our investigation found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, including the Russian-interference and obstruction investigations,” his report says. His use of the word including (my italics) implies a broader pattern of presidential misconduct beyond attempts to stop the Russia probe.
The report also hints at what Trump was trying to obscure even if there was nothing substantive to hide in terms of connections to Russian election interference. It says that “the evidence does indicate that a thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the President personally that the President could have understood to be crimes or that would give rise to personal and political concerns.” It’s not clear what offenses Mueller is referring to, but he has referred twelve unknown matters to authorities for further investigation.