Donald Trump posted a series of tweets on Monday that Washington insiders are now claiming as evidence he has crossed a line that could lead to impeachment.
The US President first attacked his former lawyer Michael Cohen — who last week admitted to lying about Trump’s Russia dealings — calling for his one-time employee to «serve a full and complete sentence.»
Minutes later, Trump praised his 2016 presidential campaign adviser Roger Stone as someone who would «never testify against him», claiming that showed the former aide had «guts».
Special counsel Robert Mueller is currently investigating Stone as part of his probe into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Stone is suspected of pushing author Jerome Corsi to obtain Hillary Clinton’s campaign team’s hacked emails, published via WikiLeaks.
The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin called the President’s tweets «potentially an abuse of power that could lead to impeachment».
Bloomberg said the tweet about Stone «looks like what any vigilant prosecutor might construe as ‘witness tampering'» — an obstruction of justice.
Ethics lawyer Norman Eisen told The Washington Post that by «praising a witness for not co-operating with the implication of reward … he may have crossed the legal line».
Supreme court lawyer Neal Katyal said few prosecutors would make a congressional referral based on tweets alone, but the posts could act as evidence as to whether Mr Trump’s intent was «corrupt» and to show a pattern to interfere with law enforcement for personal gain.
«Trump is genuinely melting down, and no good lawyer can represent him under these circs,» Katyal tweeted.
Virginia Democratic senator Mark Warner said Trump’s tweet was «serious», adding: «The President of the United States should not be using his platform to influence potential witnesses in a federal investigation involving his campaign.»
White House aide Kellyanne Conway’s husband George — a lawyer who has been increasingly critical of the President in recent months — simply referenced a federal statute that could create legal liability for Trump over witness tampering in a tweet.
Trump’s son Eric lashed out at Conway in response, accusing the lawyer of «utter disrespect» towards his wife, her career and her place of work. A series of replies accused Eric Trump of hypocrisy in light of his father’s behaviour.
The Russia investigation is drawing close to a sensational conclusion, with Mr Mueller due to file sentencing recommendations for Cohen, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn this week.
The memo is due today for Flynn, who pleaded guilty more than a year ago to lying to the FBI about speaking to Russian officials on Trump’s behalf.
Former FBI director James Comey claims Trump tried to protect Flynn by asking Comey to drop the investigation into his false statements — something the President denies.
The filings could shed more light on what Mueller has discovered, with more charges against Trump associates expected as he enters his «endgame».
The documents are likely to tell us far more about what is contained in Mueller’s final report and how much damage it could do to the President.
Mueller has said he will reveal how Manafort repeatedly lied to federal prosecutors and agents «on a variety of subject matters».
Cohen has claimed he had «planning discussions» with Trump regarding hush payments to Stormy Daniels (Stephanie Clifford) and Karen McDougal, who allege they had affairs with the billionaire businessman.
If Mueller agrees with Cohen’s version of events, prosecutors will state on the record that the President committed a federal offence by violating campaign finance law, according to CNN.
Cohen last week said he had lied to Congress about Trump’s plans to build a tower in Moscow in 2016.
The President, who repeatedly denied having any such plans at the time, insists the issue is irrelevant.