What Does Suborned Perjury Mean? 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Getty Michael Cohen

In an explosive BuzzFeed News report, it’s revealed that Pres. Donald Trump’s longtime attorney Michael Cohen told federal investigators from the special counsel’s office after the election, his former boss instructed him to lie to Congress about the then president-elect’s involvement negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Russia.

The BuzzFeed News story cited two federal law enforcement officials as sources. If accurate, some have said, this represents the first evidence of Trump personally directing someone to lie on his behalf related to his dealings with Russia, the report says.

BuzzFeed News reported that Cohen personally updated the President a number of times and “encouraged a planned meeting with Vladimir Putin.”

Lawmakers say “if true,” per the reporting, Trump has possibly suborned perjury.

Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said

“The allegation that the President of the United States may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date. We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.”

But what does that mean and has any other president ever been accused or convicted of perjury or inducing someone to lie under oath?

Here’s what you need to know:

1. To Suborn Means to Induce or Direct SOmeone to Lie. In the Practice of Law, Suborning Perjury Applies to a Lawyer Who Knowingly Lies in Court, or in This Case, to Congress

GettyMichael Cohen

In US law, to subron perjury is the crime of persuading someone to swear under oath to tell the truth but lie in a legal proceeding. the phrase subornation of perjury means when a lawyer has a client to lie under oath or allows another party to lie under oath, or, a client, in this case, has a lawyer lie under oath.

In legal practice, the condition of suborning perjury applies to a lawyer who presents either testimony or an affidavit, or both, either to a judge or to a jury, which the attorney knows to be materially false, and not factual. In civil law and in criminal law, the attorney’s knowledge that the testimony is materially false must rise above mere suspicion to what an attorney would reasonably have believed in the circumstances of the matter discussed in the testimony. Hence, the attorney cannot be wilfully blind to the fact that his or her witness is giving false, perjurious testimony.

2. In US Federal Law, the Person Who Induced the Witness’ False Testimony Can be Prosecuted & May Have Obstructed Justice

According to the US Department of Justice, “Because the crime of subornation of perjury is distinct from that of perjury, the suborner and perjurer are not accomplices; however, a person who causes a false document to be introduced through an innocent witness can be held liable as a principal under” US law.

In American federal law, whoever “procures another to commit any perjury is guilty of subornation of perjury and shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.”

The DOJ says first it must be proved that perjury was committed. It’s noted that “physical coercion” is not necessary and importantly, as many have pointed out, “solicitation of perjured testimony also may be prosecuted as obstruction of justice …”

3. There’s a History of Presidential Perjury

bill clinton

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 11 1998: US President Bill Clinton apologizes to the nation from the Rose Garden of the White House 11 December in Washington, DC. A congressional panel approved a perjury article of impeachment 11 December minutes after Clinton publicly expressed “profound remorse” over the nationwide turmoil resulting from the impeachment proceedings.

In 1998, former U.S. President Bill Clinton was accused of perjury and was impeached by the House of Representatives.

Then Independent Counsel Ken Starr said Clinton’s “videotaped testimony contained three lies or three instances of perjury to a federal grand jury” about his sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

It was noted in the New York Times at the time that in terms of “Presidential politics …’sexual misconduct is one thing while suborning perjury is still another’ in the sexual history of the American” presidency.

4. Lawmakers Say if the BuzzFeed News Report is ‘True,’ Then Trump Suborned Perjury & Obstructed Justice

Congressional lawmakers and others say if Buzzfeed’s claims are true, the President of the United States may have obstructed justice, tampered with a witness and suborned perjury by directing Cohen to lie to Congress.

“If the @BuzzFeed story is true, President Trump must resign or be impeached.”

“Listen, if Mueller does have multiple sources confirming Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress, then we need to know this ASAP. Mueller shouldn’t end his inquiry, but it’s about time for him to show Congress his cards before it’s too late for us to act.”

“I mean everything feels like a bombshell and we are all numb but I’m pretty sure if this story is true it’s – I’m going to be careful with my words here – something that Congress must investigate thoroughly.”

“If the President directed Cohen to lie to Congress, that is obstruction of justice. Period. Full stop.”

Schiff, the Democrat from California and the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released this statement late Friday morning.

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“As a counterintelligence concern of the greatest magnitude, and given that these alleged eorts were intended to interfere with our investigation, our committee is determined to get to the bottom of this and follow the evidence wherever it may lead.”

5. When Asked, William Barr Said Suborning Perjury is Obstruction of Justice

During William Barr’s confirmation hearings, Sen Amy Klobuchar asked said, “the president persuading a person to commit perjury would be obstruction. Is that right?”

Barr hesitated but replied: “Yes.” : That — yes.

Klobuchar asked, “…if a president knowingly destroys or alters evidence, that would be obstruction.”

Barr again said, “Yes,” adding he’d “have to know the specifics.”