For Presidents George W. H. Bush & Obama’s White House ethics lawyers, the defense the Trump administration is offering for Donald Trump, Jr’s meeting with a Russian lawyer is not flying.
Trump Jr. could be in legal jeopardy, they counter. They argue, “Donald Jr. and others may also be liable for conspiracy with respect to espionage, depending on how any illicit information was obtained and the level of their awareness of any spying.”
Writing in The New York Times, Norm Eisen and Richard Painter addressed the question of whether or not Donald Trump, Jr broke the law. While cautioning that this revelation shouldn’t be exaggerated, they also detailed why the defense that this was a routine meeting is “nonsense.”
They laid out exactly how this should be dealt with, and being novices won’t fly either because they point out that even a senior volunteer would know better and would notify the FBI upon receiving an offer like Donald Jr. received from the Russians.
Why would they do that? Legal liability, “both individually and for the campaign.”
That’s criminal or civil violations of campaign finance laws, they explain, noting that these laws “prohibit accepting anything of value from a foreign government or a foreign national” and “The promised Russian ‘documents and information’ would have been an illegal campaign contribution from a foreign government — and a priceless one.”
But then, it gets even worse. They ask if Trump Jr.’s enthusiasm for the constitute as assent “on behalf of the Trump campaign to continuing Russian help.” They argue that the open door and taking the meeting can be seen as a signal to “broader receptivity to Russian aid.”
They say this is even more serious than a campaign finance violation, “because it brings conspiracy law into play.” It’s not just about what Donald Jr. did, but what followed, “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.”
The t word was also addressed.
“Donald Jr. and others may also be liable for conspiracy with respect to espionage, depending on how any illicit information was obtained and the level of their awareness of any spying. Because the Russian campaign that followed was nothing less than an assault on our democracy, we understand why some are raising issues of treason as well. Prosecution under the federal treason statute is ultimately unlikely because we are not at war with Russia. But 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.)”
Trump campaign member Jeff Sessions “forgot” meetings with Russians during confirmation hearings. These meetings only came to light later upon The Washington Post revealing them.
There are also the “forgotten” meetings with Russians of the now fired national security adviser Gen. Mike Flynn.
There are also the “forgotten” payments from a pro-Russia political party of Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, uncovered by The AP.
There are the “forgotten” meetings of Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser on disclosure forms for his security clearance.
That’s a whole lot of forgetting.
The most damning question the two ethics lawyers raised was did President Trump did know of this meeting, which his son, son-in-law, and close aide attended in Trump Tower, with Trump’s office just one floor away. “Would three of his closest confidants really have undertaken this meeting without telling him?”
The two ethics lawyers say that precisely because we do not know what, if any, crimes were committed, it is “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.”
The questions any patriot who took an oath to this country would be asking and investigating right now are at the very least:
Why didn’t anyone from the Trump campaign contact the FBI?
Does Donald Jr.’s eager willingness to meet and take ill-gotten gains from the Russians to help his father win the election rise to the level of assent to accept Russian aid?
How was the material obtained?
Is he liable for conspiracy with respect to espionage? How about the other two in the meeting?
Who else in the Trump campaign knew of this meeting or how this or other material was obtained?
Most importantly, did the President know of this meeting, and where was he on that day?
Donald Trump himself asked the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton and get her emails -in public on tape, which is not just a signal to accept ill-gotten gains and not just a public declaration of a willingness to work with Russia to win the election, but a request for ill-gotten gains from a foreign adversary that we now know did in fact work to help Trump get elected.
This will place any claim of innocent intentions on the part of the President himself at risk.
Guilt has not been established, and the investigation is on-going. The possible charges and implications for our country, however, are getting worse and worse.