President Donald Trump engaged in campaign violations and colluded with Russia, committing both crimes “in plain sight” according to an op-ed published in USA Today.
Ethics watchdogs Fred Wertheimer and Norm Eisen wrote the op-ed, pointing out Trump’s obvious crimes. One, of course, occurred when Trump’s longtime attorney, Michael Cohen, implicated the president in a conspiracy when he pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws.
The other occurred when Trump called on Russia to find Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s missing emails during a July 27, 2016, speech. This event took place after the media reports showing that U.S. intelligence agencies had evidence that Russian operatives hacked the Democratic National Committee email servers.
According to Wertheimer and Eisen, Trump’s public comments requesting that Russia obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails were a clear violation of federal law.
“On July 27, 2016, Trump called on Russia to find presidential Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s missing emails. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump proclaimed. He added, “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” Federal campaign finance law prohibits any person from soliciting campaign contributions, defined as anything of value to be given to influence an election, from a foreign national, including a foreign government.”
“In asking Russia to find Clinton’s emails, presidential candidate Trump violated this statutory prohibition on seeking help from a foreign country to influence an election. Trump in essence called on a foreign adversary to locate and release something that was of great value to him and his campaign.”
The two ethics lawyers point out that federal law prohibits the mere solicitation of help from a foreign country. It does not matter whether anything is actually delivered, or if help is actually given.
But, they added, it appears that Russia soon after Trump’s speech did in fact hack Clinton’s computers and obtain her mails:
“But in this case, on or around the same day that Trump solicited help from Russia, Russia made its first attempt to break into servers that Hillary Clinton’s personal office used. That event is laid out in detail in an indictment of Russian hackers obtained by special counsel Robert Mueller.”
The writers also said that Trump had been warned just before his infamous “Russia, if you’re listening” speech that for him to ask for help from foreign interests would be illegal. They know because one them warned him.
At the time news organizations had reported that Trump’s campaign was violating the ban on foreign solicitations by emailing fundraising solicitations to foreign nationals, Wertheimer and Eisen pointed out. And after that, they filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department against Trump’s presidential campaign committee for illegally soliciting financial support from foreign countries.
The time has come for Donald Trump to be held accountable for these crimes, the authors wrote, saying:
“The Trump campaign is legally responsible under principles of vicarious liability for the statements of its head, and so could be indicted. The Russia solicitation could be included in an indictment featuring other counts, such as charging the campaign and the Trump Organization for the separate alleged hush money violations described by Cohen.”
“No Justice Department policy prohibits prosecutors from naming the president as an unindicted co-conspirator in such an indictment.”
“And with a five-year statute of limitations, he could still be prosecuted for these alleged knowing and willful 2016 offenses should he fail to seek or secure re-election in 2020.”
As a new year starts, the time has come for Donald Trump to be held accountable and be indicted for the many crimes he committed during his campaign for the presidency. The authors of the USA Today editorial are legal experts who present clear evidence of such crimes, and so it is now up to Robert Mueller to take the necessary next step of indicting the guilty parties.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.