There has been a lot of hand-wringing over the recent revelation that Paul Manafort’s lawyers have been speaking to Donald Trump’s lawyers. Pundits have said breathlessly that such conduct is obstructive and that only mob lawyers engage in such behavior. Nothing could be further from the truth — by itself, there is nothing obstructive about the lawyers speaking with each other and sharing information.
Witnesses do not belong to one side or the other.
Paul Manafort has pleaded guilty and as part of his plea agreement has promised to answer Mueller’s questions truthfully. Mueller did not ask Manafort to keep those questions and answers secret, nor could he make such a request. This situation comes up frequently in federal criminal cases outside of mob cases. In one common scenario, employees who are questioned by federal authorities are often asked by their employers to share information and do so all of the time. There is nothing nefarious or obstructive about this. Several courts have explained that it is improper for a prosecutor to tell a government witness not to talk to the defense.
Thursday, November 29, 2018
Witnesses do not belong to one side or the other
I use the current situation with Mueller, Manafort, and Trump as a vehicle to discuss the issue this morning in The Hill: