The Slatest

A Lawyer Learns the “Flipping Should Be Illegal” Argument Doesn’t Work So Well in Drug Cases

Donald Trump holds his arms out in the Oval Office
President Donald Trump in the Oval Office.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In closing arguments in a drug crime case at the U.S. District Court in New York, defense attorney Kafahni Nkrumah tried out President Trump’s argument that associates who testify against a defendant in exchange for lenient treatment “almost ought to be illegal.” It did not work.

The Associated Press reported that judge Gregory Woods scolded Nkrumah and told him that the argument was “ought of line.” Nkrumah tried to argue that it was legitimate to bring up Trump’s opposition to flippers “because it is concerning cooperators and people’s opinions of cooperators,” the AP said. “I believe that the president’s opinion of cooperators is just as pertinent as anyone else’s.”

Woods said referencing Trump’s comments was “politically charged” and a “polemic issue that need not be introduced into this case.”

Nkrumah’s client, Jamal Russell, ended up being convicted on a drug charge but got off on his weapons charge, the AP said. The cooperating witness testified against Russell on the drug charge, the AP said.

Trump made his argument against cooperating witnesses in criminal cases during an interview with Fox News after Michael Cohen pleaded guilty as part of a deal with federal prosecutors in New York and after Paul Manafort was found guilty by a jury in Alexandria, Virginia, on bank and tax fraud after he didn’t reach a deal with Robert Mueller’s team that may have spared him from the full brunt of their prosecutorial energies.

“It’s called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal,” Trump said on Fox. “You get 10 years in jail. But if you say bad things about somebody, in other words, if you make up stories—they just make up lies.”