Watch former federal prosecutors explain why Sean Hannity urging witnesses to destroy evidence is problematic even if he was joking

From the June 7 edition of MSNBC's The Beat:

Video file

NICK AKERMAN (FORMER ASST. WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR): I think the thinking in the White House is to tamper with witnesses. What Sean Hannity admitted to and actually was enticing people to do and asking them to do was to destroy evidence, which is a violation of the witness tampering statute. It’s not just people who destroy the evidence, but it’s also people who actually ask others to do it. If you just look at the language of the statute: “Whoever knowingly persuades another person or attempts to do so with intent to cause or induce any person to alter, destroy, mutilate, or conceal an object with intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding commits a 20-year felony.” He’s doing it on TV.

JOYCE VANCE (FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY): Hannity seems to be well versed in how to wipe out a phone so I guess if I were Bob Mueller I might have some questions for him about what he’s been doing to his own devices. But look, this is reprehensible conduct. No responsible person on television, no responsible so-called journalist should be advocating for people to destroy evidence in a serious federal investigation. It’s reprehensible, it is sadly more of what we’ve come to expect from the people that this president surrounds himself with. One would hope that Fox would perhaps impose some sanctions on Hannity for this conduct but I don't think that we'll see him prosecuted. Federal prosecutors give people a very wide berth on First Amendment related conduct. And so unless there is something more specific to link it up, I think that this will be what we often categorize as awful but lawful conduct.

NATASHA BERTRAND: It’s really important to mention that Hannity is not a neutral player in all this. I mean, Sean Hannity has potential legal vulnerability especially because there is evidence that perhaps he was talking to Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, during the – after the election when Julian Assange reached out to a Twitter account that he thought belonged to Sean Hannity and said “let’s communicate on another platform,” so that’s evidence that perhaps Sean Hannity did have prior communication with Julian Assange.

AKERMAN: It’s also very similar to what I used to see when I prosecuted organized crime figures. What they would do is they would come on hard, they’d tell people to destroy the evidence, to get rid of the evidence and then they’d just say, “Oh, I’m just kidding.” It was kind of like a wink and a nod but what they want you to do is to destroy the evidence.


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