Weekly Roundtable — What Team Trump’s Criminal Prosecution Might Look Like
This past week brought the shocking revelation that the President's son Donald Trump Jr., as well as son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign manager Paul Manafort, met in June 2016 with (a) a Russian lawyer acting as a Kremlin emissary and (b) a former Soviet spy who may still be working for Russian intelligence services as a covert operative and who has also been suspected of hacking major computer systems.
Donald Trump Jr. has confirmed in writing that the meetings took place, allegedly for the purposes of obtaining derogatory information about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election campaign.
At a minimum, the existence of this meeting exposes the President and his surrogates as liars for having claimed the campaign had no contact with any Russians. Emails released by the younger Trump document the fact that the Russian government wanted the elder Trump to win the election and that the Russian government was offering help.
So does this mean laws were broken and that people in Trump's inner circle could be indicted and face criminal prosecution and end up in federal prison?
The short answer is: possibly, and on a variety of criminal charges.
First, federal statutes make it a crime for anyone to "solicit, accept or receive" a contribution or "anything of value" from a foreign national "for the purpose of influencing any election for federal office." Violators could face prison time as well has hefty fines.
As election law expert Robert Bauer explains, salacious opposition research would be of great value to a campaign, so the "anything of value" threshold is easily met. By responding to emails and arranging the meeting, Donald Jr. also satisfied the solicitation requirement of the statute.
Second, Trump's defenders are saying that he can't be prosecuted because the Russians provided nothing of value. That's a false and deceptive response for a variety of reasons. There's no proof nothing of value was provided and various news reports have revealed the lawyer acting as the Kremlin's intermediary left some kind of written documentation at the end of the meeting.
It doesn't really matter, however, if she did or didn't provide anything concrete. As several criminal law experts explain, Donald Junior and others may have violated additional laws that punish criminal conspiracies and prohibit criminal solicitation. By merely arranging and attending the meeting, regardless of the outcome, the three Team Trump campaign officials may have engaged in a criminal conspiracy to violate election laws.
Third, Jared Kushner may additionally have committed perjury by failing to disclose this meeting with the Kremlin's emissaries during the campaign when he failed to reveal its existence in his application for a security clearance. Kushner is known to have omitted more than one hundred foreign interactions from his initial security clearance application. Deliberately failing to report such contacts can be prosecuted as perjury.
Finally, if the President himself knew about this meeting around the time of his occurance, he could be charged with obstruction of justice if he fired former FBI Director James Comey to derail investigations of his own family. This comes down to the classic Nixon-era question that must be put to Trump: what did the President know and when did he know it?
The existence of this meeting is only one area where a criminal prosecution of Team Trump could go. There well may be much more that Special Counsel Robert Mueller may be including in his criminal investigation of the President. For instance, the President and his children and son-in-law could face criminal prosecution for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in a deal to build a hotel in Azerbaijan that may have disguised a money-laundering operation for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Feel free to discuss this issue or anything else relevant to the Trump administration in this week's roundtable. The roundtable is also a good place to post things that don't warrant separate threads in their own right — like articles on Trump that aren't impeachment-related, like Trump-related short commentaries, one-liners, relevant tweets, memes, humor items, etc.