Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe says that the president may have committed (another) crime. The possible crime in question is extortion, and it’s alleged that Trump told the hosts of MSNBC’s popular program “Morning Joe” that if they didn’t “lay off,” then the National Enquirer would smear them.
Tribe wrote on Twitter:
‘If WH told [Mika Brzezinski] & [Joe Scarborough] the Nat’l Enquirer wd smear them unless they laid off T on their show, that wd be a crime per 18 USC 872.’
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) June 30, 2017
The revelation that Trump had threatened the “Morning Joe” co-hosts in the manner that Tribe describes came in an op-ed written by Brzezinski and Scarborough themselves and published recently in The Washington Post.
In that article, the pair wrote:
‘This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked. We ignored their desperate pleas.’
A slightly different account, based on the testimony of “three sources familiar with the private conversations,” was published recently in New York Magazine. In that account, it is said that the Morning Joe co-hosts got wind of the National Enquirer’s intent to publish a hit piece on them. Following this, Scarborough is said to have approached the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who he has long been acquainted with, and asked about how to stop the story. (The president and National Enquirer owner David Pecker are close.)
Kushner is said to have told Scarborough that he could get the story stopped if he “personally apologized to the president” for his show’s starkly negative coverage of him. The MSNBC host refused.
Following these alleged conversations, on June 5, an article ran in the National Enquirer suggesting that Scarborough and Brzezinski, who had long seemed to be leaning towards becoming an item at some point, were having an affair.
Whether or not Tribe’s accusations that the president committed extortion will hold water, really depends on the exact sequence of events in this whole thing. If the president sought the story in question to be published as a way to get back at the MSNBC hosts, that would be one thing. If the story was published relatively independent from the president’s feelings, however, that likely wouldn’t be anything worth legally looking into.
Business Insider describes the statute in question as appearing to “leave open a window for interpretation.” The statute addresses the specifics of extortion tied to money but it does not, apparently, address other specifics.
Twitter, of course, was on board with Tribe. Check it out below.
F_CK THE @NatEnquirer !! And everybody that works there ! ?
— Clifton Collins Jr. (@ccollinsjr) June 30, 2017
Age, poor diet and self imposed stress level could get him before the courts do…
— Donna Cantwell (@donnalee3371) June 30, 2017
Obviously 45 has learned he can get away with anything.
— ?Sher' W ? (@cherokeesher2) June 30, 2017
The Morning Joe co-hosts revealed that the White House waved the National Enquirer story in front of them following the president taking to Twitter to lob an array of ridiculous insults at them, including that Brzezinski had come to him at one point while “bleeding badly” from a face lift gone wrong.
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