Former Trump associates say they see ominous signs of a perjury trap in the document requests they received this week from House Democrats.
The sprawling set of requests were sent to 81 individuals, federal agencies or other entities connected to President Trump, in a bid by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat and House Judiciary Committee chairman, to try to build a case for corruption and obstruction of justice against the president’s team.
To some of those who received the requests, though, it seems like a legal minefield designed to leave them vulnerable to criminal charges.
“This is the prefect set-up for perjury traps,” said conservative author Jerome Corsi, who was not a member of the campaign but received a one-page list of document requests. “You are going into a hostile audience here. This is not a legitimate inquiry. It is a group of Democrats with a grudge and an attempt to destroy anyone who has had anything to do with Donald Trump.”
Michael Caputo, who was part of the Trump campaign, also got a one-page request asking him to turn over any documents about a 2016 Trump Tower meeting between the president’s top advisers and Russian operatives offering dirt on Hillary Clinton, and any contacts involving former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
“I think Chairman Nadler clearly wants to have a march of Trump associates through his hearing room in the month ahead and this document production gambit is way to figure out who he is going to seek first and part of the Democrats’ ploy has always been to set perjury traps for anyone who helped elect Donald Trump,” Mr. Caputo told The Washington Times.
Others said they aren’t worried.
Former campaign official Carter Page said he “will act in good faith” to meet the Democrats’ demands.
“You do the best you can,” he said. “There are all sorts of legal tricks they can try.”
A perjury trap is a common ploy used in political investigations. It involves asking complicated questions and baiting someone into an inconsistency or an omission, then either bringing charges for making false statements or using that threat to press for more cooperation.
Former prosecutor Sidney Powell said perjury traps are “grossly abused.”
“If they pick up any inconsistency between prior testimony and your current testimony you face an allegation of perjury even if you misremember something or make a mistake,” she said. “It’s a way to put people in a position where they have to do whatever [prosecutors] want to save their own skin.”
Accusations of that tactic have already surfaced in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor for the Trump campaign, received a 14-day prison sentence for lying to investigators. He told investigators a conversation about Russia with suspected spy Joseph Mifsud occurred before he joined the Trump campaign. Although Papadopoulos met with Mr. Mifsud on March 15, 2016 and joined the Trump team on March 19, he failed to tell investigators that he knew on March 10 he would be appointed to the campaign.
“Papadopoulos was set up,” Ms. Powell said. “To me those details are not even material to the case.”
Mr. Nadler said his 81 requests were only the “initial” batch, suggesting more are on the way. He said this set only asks for documents the persons or entities had previously turned over to other probes.
But those who received the requests say they’re miffed by some of them.
Mr. Caputo said the request for information related to the Trump Tower meeting is strange because he was 500 miles away when the meeting took place and has no details to offer.
Mr. Corsi said the same thing about his request to produce documents related to his dealings with Russia and Wikileaks. “I didn’t deal with either of them,” he said. “I don’t know anyone with the Russian Federation and I have no contact with Wikileaks.”
Mr. Caputo said the committee’s request is about political grandstanding.
“If someone is sending you questions that you have already answered at committee hearings or asking you for documents you don’t have, they are just creating headlines so they can impeach the president, raise money for their own campaign and get re-elected,” he said.
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