Trump’s unsurprising endorsement of illegal solicitation

Fred Wertheimer writes: It’s not surprising that President Donald Trump believes that “most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don Jr. attended in order to get info on an opponent” – his reference, of course, is to the infamous June 9 meeting organized by Donald Trump Jr. to obtain incriminating information on Hillary Clinton offered, as he knew, by the Russian government.

President Trump and his supporters keep trying to spin the line that there was nothing illegal about what Trump Jr. did.

That’s plain wrong.

Setting aside the question of criminal intent, the public record shows that Trump Jr. knowingly solicited “something of value” for the Trump campaign from a foreign source. Doing so was a violation on the federal ban on soliciting foreign support for a campaign. The fact that this was a foreign government, hostile to US democratic institutions, is not relevant to this legal analysis, though it is relevant to what we think of his actions as an ethical matter. Whether Trump Jr. actually received valuable information is irrelevant to the “solicitation” violation that occurred. In other words, the solicitation of a contribution, i.e. something of value to the campaign, from a foreign national is itself illegal, whether a contribution is or is not actually received in response to the solicitation.

According to an AP article a folder of information reportedly was given to Trump Jr. by the Russian government lawyer at the meeting. A participant in the meeting, Rinat Akhmetshin, said that the attorney brought with her a plastic folder with printed-out documents that detailed what she believed was the flow of illicit funds to the Democrats. Akhmetshin recalled the attorney saying “This could be a good issue to expose how the DNC is accepting bad money,” according to the AP.

This was just one account of the meeting and we do not know what was in the folder or what happened to the documents.

Whether that information in the folder was something “of value” to the campaign is a question that requires investigation. If it was and it was taken, then Trump Jr. and the campaign committed a second violation of not only soliciting but also receiving a contribution from a foreign national.

President Trump’s claim that “most politicians” would do what his son did means that the President thinks that most politicians would engage in illegal conduct by soliciting opposition research of value to the campaign from a foreign source, including a foreign adversary that has no respect for free and open elections.

The President’s position is not surprising, however, since his campaign knowingly and repeatedly violated the same statutory solicitation prohibition during the 2016 presidential election — by soliciting illegal campaign contributions multiple times from multiple foreign sources. [Continue reading…]

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