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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 5/17/18

Setting a Perjury Trap for Trump

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From Down With Tyranny


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A "perjury trap" is a prosecutorial maneuver and a form of entrapment in which "a prosecutor calls a witness to testify with the intent to base a perjury charge on their statements, not to indict them for a previous crime." If a prosecutor calls a witness for only that purpose, rather than to get information to further an investigation, the law is clear -- it's forbidden.

Perjury traps are most easily executed when the prosecutor has prior knowledge of the matter about which the witness is questioned but doesn't reveal having that knowledge. In practice perjury traps can be executed while furthering an investigation and still be traps. A prosecutor can ask investigatory questions and set a perjury trap at the same time. Thus, since perjury traps are forbidden in law only in restricted circumstances, they are difficult to avoid.

If the questions leaked to the New York Times and presented as what Robert Mueller would ask Donald Trump in an official interview, are indeed Mueller's questions (regardless of who leaked them), Mueller may be setting a perjury trap for Trump.

Michael Flynn's Perjury Trap

Witness the situation of Michael Flynn, about which investigative reporter Robert Parry wrote just weeks before his death:

"Russia-gate enthusiasts are thrilled over the guilty plea of President Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI about pre-inauguration conversations with the Russian ambassador, but the case should alarm true civil libertarians.

"What is arguably most disturbing about this case is that then-National Security Adviser Flynn was pushed into a perjury trap by Obama administration holdovers at the Justice Department who concocted an unorthodox legal rationale for subjecting Flynn to an FBI interrogation four days after he took office, testing Flynn's recollection of the conversations while the FBI agents had transcripts of the calls intercepted by the National Security Agency.

"In other words, the Justice Department wasn't seeking information about what Flynn said to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak -- the intelligence agencies already had that information. Instead, Flynn was being quizzed on his precise recollection of the conversations and nailed for lying when his recollections deviated from the transcripts."
Seems like entrapment to me, regardless of what you think of Michael Flynn.

Bill Clinton's Perjury Trap

If you're not fond of Michael Flynn, consider Bill Clinton, of whom many have kinder thoughts. In 1998, Jeffrey Rosen wrote this in The New Yorker about Ken Starr's attempt to prove Bill Clinton perjured himself by denying his affair with Monica Lewinsky (emphasis added):
"Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr has claimed that his 7-month investigation of President Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky, which seeks to prove that Clinton and Lewinsky lied under oath in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case against Clinton, is about lies, not sex. But the public appears to recognize instinctively what the law has long acknowledged: that lies vary in degree and in kind, and that they should be treated accordingly. The President's aides fear that Starr will try to set a so-called perjury trap in order to catch the President in lies told directly to the grand jury. Perjury traps have become a popular tactic among independent counsels: if they can't prove the alleged crime they were appointed to investigate, they indict suspects for lying to investigators. But the traps are effective only because independent counsels have succeeded over the past few decades in expanding the lying laws far beyond their historical roots."
The U.S. is a prosecutorial nation, and has been for some time. How else do we explain the popularity of shows like Judge Judy, Jerry Springer and the many like them, shows in which the "unworthy" are subjected to public humiliation? How else do we explain our acceptance of having the largest prison population in the world?

How Will the Next "Rogue" President Be Taken Down?

Perhaps you're fine with this use of prosecutorial power. Perhaps, even though you'd hate it if these tactics were used against you, and hated it when they were used against Bill Clinton, you now love them when used against Trump and his team.

But whatever your view of either man, Donald Trump or Bill Clinton, keep this in mind:

1. This is the way prosecutors regularly do business in our "in love with prosecution" state.

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A writer who contributes to a number of publications, including digby's Hullabaloo, Down With Tyranny, Naked Capitalism, Truthout and Alternet.

On Twitter — @Gaius_Publius

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