Wednesday, July 12, 2017

NPR -- The Question Hanging Over Washington: Did Donald Trump Jr. Break The Law?

1. The revelation that Donald Trump Jr. enthusiastically accepted an offer to meet with an individual described as a “Russian government attorney” bringing “official documents and information” to help the Trump campaign and injure the Clinton campaign raises a host of potential criminal and other legal violations for Donald Jr. and others involved, including his brother-in-law Jared Kushner; Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman at the time; and perhaps the president himself.

2. The defense that this was a routine meeting to hear about opposition research is nonsense. As ethics lawyers, they would have insisted upon immediate notification of the F.B.I., and so would any normal campaign lawyer, official or even senior volunteer.

3. The potential offenses include criminal or civil violations of campaign finance laws that prohibit accepting anything of value from a foreign government or a foreign national. The promised Russian “documents and information” would have been an illegal campaign contribution from a foreign government — and a priceless one.

4. Donald Jr.’s statement of enthusiasm about the meeting (“I love it,” Donald Jr. wrote) constituted assent on behalf of the Trump campaign to continuing Russian help, reasonably be understood to signal a broader receptivity to Russian aid. This is even more serious than the campaign finance violation that could make Donald Jr. and others liable for all of the Russian dirty tricks that followed, including any Russian cybercrimes or other crimes targeting the Clinton campaign.

5. Because the Russian campaign that followed was nothing less than an assault on our democracy, some are raising issues of treason as well. During the Cold War, treasonous conduct was often prosecuted under other statutes. (Alger Hiss was sentenced to four years in prison for “forgetting” in sworn testimony that he had met with Whitaker Chambers, an American working for the Russians.)

6. Jared Kushner could be charged with making false statements if it is determined that he intentionally withheld this or other Russia-related meetings from his government filings.

7. It is now more critical than ever that the investigations by the special prosecutor and Congress be allowed to complete their course without White House or other interference.

 By Peter Overby and Marilyn Geewax