Donald Trump Jr. Emails Paint Serious Case of Campaign Finance Violations

Just to recap where we are:

It is illegal for a person to solicit a contribution to a campaign from a foreign individual or entity. To solicit:

means to ask, request, or recommend, explicitly or implicitly, that another person make a contribution, donation, transfer of funds, or otherwise provide anything of value. A solicitation is an oral or written communication that, construed as reasonably understood in the context in which it is made, contains a clear message asking, requesting, or recommending that another person make a contribution, donation, transfer of funds, or otherwise provide anything of value. A solicitation may be made directly or indirectly. The context includes the conduct of persons involved in the communication. A solicitation does not include mere statements of political support or mere guidance as to the applicability of a particular law or regulation.

(This is from another FEC regulation, incorporated by reference into the foreign contribution ban.)

In˚ two tweets, Donald Trump Jr. released an email chain that explains the meeting  he had with the Russian lawyer to get “dirt” on Hillary Cinton that has been the subject of the investigation. (He released them just as the NYT posted a story on them.)

Looking at the emails, it seems pretty serious. Trump Jr. got an email from his friend stating: “Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting. The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Trump Jr. replied almost immediately: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

Hard to see how there is not a serious case here of solicitation. Trump Jr. appears to have knowledge of the foreign source and is asking to see it. As I explained earlier, such information can be considered a “thing of value” for purposes of the campaign finance law. (Update: More on the meaning of “thing of value” here and here.)

It is also possible other laws were broken, such as the laws against coordinating with a foreign entity on an expenditure.  There could also be related obstruction, racketeering, or conspiracy charges, but these are really outside my area of specialization and I cannot say.

But there’s a lot for prosecutors to sink their teeth into. Pretty close to the smoking gun people were looking for.

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