The case involving a top aide to Donald Trump could become a legal showdown over the president’s attacks on potential witnesses in the special counsel’s probe.
Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort allegedly violated a gag order imposed by a federal judge to subpoena potential witnesses in the investigation. The judge had sealed the case and said the gag order was necessary to protect the investigation, but Trump and his lawyers have used it as an opportunity to launch personal attacks on potential witnesses and undermine the investigation.
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani recently said that Manafort “needs to stop attacking the prosecutors,” and Trump himself tweeted: “There is Collusion with Russia” and urged Manafort to “Be a hero”. This could put Manafort in an awkward position, as his lawyers must decide whether to go against the judge’s gag order and counter the president’s claims or remain silent and risk losing credibility.
At the same time, the defense is also exploring the possibility of filing motions to exclude evidence they say was obtained illegally in violation of the Fifth Amendment’s warrant clause. This could be another avenue for the defense to challenge the constitutionality of the investigation.
No matter what the outcome, the case will be a test of whether Trump and his lawyers can use the president’s personal attacks to weaken the special counsel’s investigation. It will be up to the judge to decide whether Trump’s comments will be allowed to influence the trial, and if so, how that will affect the outcome.