Will Trump Jr’s Ignorance of Campaign Finance Law Let Him Off The Hook? What About Manafort?

Andy Grewal makes a careful and good case that based on what we know, there might not be enough wilfulness on the part of Donald Trump Jr. for him to be criminally prosecuted. This is an important point and much more persuasive than other arguments I’ve seen against criminal liability (contorted readings of the statute, First Amendment defenses, etc.)

But two caveats.

  1. This is based on what we know. We are seeing but a tiny sliver of the evidence the special counsel is seeing. It may be that Trump Jr.’s extreme recklessness would be enough.  And it may be that Manafort, who attended the meeting and worked on campaigns would have the right mental state for criminal liability. We still don’t know what we don’t know.
  2. Trump Jr. can still be civilly liable, even if he’s too ignorant to be criminally liable. So Andy’s last sentence seems incorrect. (“Nonetheless, the relevance of a FECA prosecution to Trump Jr. has likely been greatly overstated in current public debates and, going forward, commentators should take into account FECA’s mens rea standards before alleging a campaign finance law violation.”)

Update: Grewal modified his post after I posted this, qualifying some of the statements noted above.

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