Juries, we are told, must decide cases on the evidence before them. No one outside the courtroom can, or should, communicate with a jury about anything related to the substance of the case. An ironclad prohibition.
To do so, however the means or methods, is jury tampering.
So what are we to think, and more important, what should the government do, when the president of the United States, as he did on Friday, tells reporters — while jurors are deliberating in the tax- and bank-fraud trial of Paul Manafort — that “I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad,” that Manafort “happens to be a very good person,” and that “I think it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort.”
Here we have the president publicly declaring that the government — the Department of Justice — is wrong to prosecute his former campaign chairman. The trial marks the first big test for the investigation of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — also much maligned by the president — into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, though the 18 counts that Manafort is facing are not related to his work on the Trump 2016 presidential campaign.
What if Trump’s declarations reach the ears of the jury? Even one juror? With the jury on break and not sequestered over the weekend, what are the chances of members not learning about Trump’s intervention?
It could, and may likely, have some influence. After all, the assertion that the U.S. government is wrong to have prosecuted Manafort — “a very good person” — is coming from the government’s chief executive, a possible final arbiter of Manafort’s fate.
Trump’s intervention, intended or not, is improper. Jury tampering, anyone? Anyone?