It's one of those mornings when you wonder whether 'JournoList' has been resurrected, or if perhaps the talking heads at CNN and MSNBC have found some other means of agreeing on their talking points for the day.
Because the opening segments today on MSNBC's Morning Joe and CNN's New Day were eerily similar. Both shows highlighted a New York Post interview in which President Trump declined to take a pardon for Paul Manafort off the table. Both shows then brought in legal analysts and kibitzers to float the notion that President Trump's statement could constitute "obstruction." For good measure, the MSNBC analyst suggested it could also constitute "witness tampering." And both analysts cast the President as having "dangled" a pardon.
In the New York Post interview, President Trump said he has not discussed a pardon for Manafort, "but I wouldn’t take it off the table. Why would I take it off the table?”
That is a simple acknowledgment of presidential powers. But both liberal networks pounced. On Morning Joe, Joyce White Vance, a former U.S. Attorney appointed by President Obama, said:
"At this point in time, when Manafort is signed up on Team USA, that's really pretty close to witness tampering."
An avid Mike Barnicle was eager for more, asking Vance whether, in addition to witness tampering, Trump's statement could also constitute "obstruction of justice."
Over on CNN, New Day brought on Yale faculty member and former FBI agent Asha Rangappa to declare that Trump's statement "could be evidence of obstruction."
Note: Vance did concede that Trump's statement, in and of itself, would not likely constitute a crime. However, note how she christened the Mueller investigators "Team USA." Will she be sending them white hats for Christmas?
WILLIE GEIST: Just days after we learned the special counsel wants to scrap Paul Manafort's plea deal, President Trump is now publicly discussing a possible pardon for his former campaign chairman. In an Oval Office interview with the New York Post yesterday, President Trump left open the possibility of a pardon, telling the paper, "it was never discussed, but I wouldn't take it off the table. Why would I take it off the table?"
. . .
JOYCE VANCE: It sounds like the President is dangling a pardon to Paul Manafort. And at this point in time, when Manafort is signed up on Team USA, that's really pretty close to witness tampering.
. . .
MIKE BARNICLE: Joyce, you've already alluded to witness tampering . . . Is there any cause here to wonder about, a, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, which you've mentioned?
. . .
ALISYN CAMEROTA: In an interview with the New York Post, President Trump dangled the possibility of a pardon for his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, saying "it was never discussed, but I wouldn't take it off the table. Why would I take it off the table?"
. . .
ASHA RANGAPPA: From a legal perspective this is problematic for him. Yes, the President has very broad pardon power, he could pardon Manafort. But dangling a pardon is something different. It is offering to use your presidential power in order to encourage or entice or influence somebody's behavior. That is a separate act! And that can also be evidence of obstruction.