After President Trump launched a tweet-attack against MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinksi, it was discovered that senior White House officials threatened to publish a negative article about them unless they apologized directly to Trump for their negative media coverage of him.
“We got a call that, ‘Hey, the National Enquirer is going to run a negative story about you guys,’” Scarborough said on the show. “And they said, ‘If you call the president up and you apologize for your coverage then he would pick up the phone and basically spike this.’…The calls kept coming and they were like, ‘You need to call, please call.’”
That’s prima facie extortion, and can be punishable by law, which in this case means trying to obtain something from someone (doesn’t have to mean money, through the use of force or with threats.
According to Mother Jones, several attorneys confirmed that the White House officials who called Scarborough to issue the threat – including Trump himself – “might have broken federal extortion law, as well as blackmail law and a New York state law against extortion or coercion.” That’s a serious accusation.
Ted Williams, a criminal defense attorney in Washington, DC agrees. “This case could very well be extortion,” he says. “If these are the facts, you have the president of the United States colluding with a newspaper based in Florida and its owner to make certain things happen with a threat. It is a strong possibility that an extortion case can be made, and also a conspiracy case should be looked at. Here was a threat: You kiss the brass ring or you are exposed. I would hope the FBI would get involved.”
Trump and his White House can even be charged with wire fraud according to Williams. “When certain communications are transmitted over phones and other apparatuses for blackmailing two television personalities to help the president of the United States, that could lead to such a charge,” he says.
From Mother Jones:
If the White House aides did indeed tell Scarborough and Brzezinski that the National Enquirer would smear them unless they laid off Trump on their show, “that [would] be a crime,” Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe tweeted Friday. In a follow-up tweet, Tribe, a prominent Trump critic, added, “If Trump told staffers to extort, he too has committed that serious crime.”
The thing about this is Trump can’t blame it on anyone but himself. This may be one of those times where Trump’s tweets actually get him in trouble with the law. Why? Trump admitted to it. He claims that Scarborough even “called me to stop a National Enquirer articles.” This confirms that there was communication between Trump and Scarborough on this matter, not just White House officials. Scarborough, however, denies Trump’s claim as “another lie.”
Scarborough claims to have records, too. Here’s what he told Trump, putting the heat on him: “I have texts from your top aides and phone records. Also, those records show I haven’t spoken with you in many months.”
So, what was the article Trump was probably referring to? Well, the Enquirer just published on Friday a negative article about the two claiming that before they were romantically involved, they were still married to their former spouses. Trump had dirt on them and he was prepared to use it against them – now he just did. It’s unbecoming of the President of the United States and it could be prosecutable.
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