WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s lawyer has acknowledged that he received briefings from attorneys for Paul Manafort while Manafort was cooperating with Robert Mueller, an unusual development that legal experts say raises the specter of witness tampering and obstruction of justice.
Trump’s chief defense lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told the Associated Press that Manafort’s attorneys had been briefing him, a fact first reported by The New York Times, to whom Giuliani also confirmed the briefings.
“They share with me the things that pertain to our part of the case,” Giuliani told the AP. He declined to make the same acknowledgement to NBC News, but he did not dispute the reporting.
Some legal experts believe that the feeding of information by Manafort’s lawyers to the Trump legal team could amount to obstruction of justice or witness tampering, if Manafort disclosed confidential information or the president’s side discussed the possibility of a pardon. But that would depend on exactly what was said.
If Mueller decides to investigate, the Trump team could be in for an unpleasant surprise. Legal experts told NBC News the conversations among the lawyers would not be covered by attorney-client privilege — meaning Mueller in theory could haul Giuliani before the grand jury and force him to testify under oath about them.