Don­ald Trump Jr.’s tremen­dously shady meet­ing

The Denver Post - - OPINION - By David Harsanyi David Harsanyi is a se­nior ed­i­tor at The Fed­er­al­ist. Fol­low him on Twit­ter: @david­harsanyi

The New York Times re­cently re­ported that Don­ald Trump Jr. met with a Rus­sian lawyer with ties to the Krem­lin who claimed to have in­for­ma­tion that could harm Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign. The in­ter­me­di­ary told Trump Jr. that the in­for­ma­tion came from high up in the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment — the prose­cu­tor gen­eral of Rus­sia, in fact, who is an ap­pointee of Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

At first, Trump Jr. claimed it was all a bunch of fake news. Once The New York Times con­tacted him re­gard­ing the emails cor­rob­o­rat­ing its story, he took the ini­tia­tive of re­leas­ing the four-page chain and feigned trans­parency. De­spite Don Jr.’s pos­ing, noth­ing in the email is ex­cul­pa­tory. In many ways, the full con­text is worse than The Times’ story. While I’m sure many cam­paigns have dab­bled in this kind of sor­did ef­fort, it’s still un­eth­i­cal.

No, it doesn’t mat­ter whether Rob Gold­stone, the, um, col­or­ful go-be­tween, was ly­ing about the source of the in­for­ma­tion, be­cause the fact is three trusted mem­bers of Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign — his son; son-in-law, Jared Kush­ner; and then-cam­paign man­ager Paul Manafort — were will­ing to take a meet­ing with a for­eign agent to see oppo re­search they as­sumed was passed on from an­other gov­ern­ment. Aside from all other things, that is in­con­ceiv­ably stupid.

It doesn’t mat­ter whether Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya, the lawyer, re­layed any use­ful in­for­ma­tion to Trump’s cam­paign re­gard­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton (we al­ready knew she was do­ing busi­ness with Rus­sia for per­sonal gain) be­cause we can plainly see that Don Jr. wanted it to be true. “If it’s what you say I love it,” he wrote. It doesn’t mat­ter whether the meet­ing was a dud. He was ready to use “sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion” that “is part of Rus­sia and its gov­ern­ment’s sup­port for Mr. Trump.” I’m not sure why this would be il­le­gal, but it’s cer­tainly shady.

The GOP should con­demn Don Jr.’s ac­tions be­cause they’re sleazy and dumb. But there is a long way to go be­fore any re­spon­si­ble per­son starts mak­ing in­cen­di­ary claims about trea­son.

That said, the Democrats, of course, im­me­di­ately be­gan of­fer­ing the most se­vere con­dem­na­tion, which will only make a le­git­i­mate con­cern an­other par­ti­san clown show. Sen. Tim Kaine, for ex­am­ple, claimed that the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion is “now be­yond ob­struc­tion of jus­tice. … This is mov­ing into per­jury, false state­ments and even into po­ten­tially trea­son.”

This sit­u­a­tion doesn’t even rise to “col­lu­sion,” although, clearly, it’s worth in­ves­ti­gat­ing fur­ther. Meet­ing with some­one, even a for­eign some­one, is not a crime. Nor is hear­ing some­thing from a for­eign per­son. Yet lots of peo­ple are get­ting ex­cited about a line in the statute that gov­erns for­eign con­tri­bu­tions to Amer­i­can cam­paigns. It says, “A for­eign na­tional shall not, di­rectly or in­di­rectly, make a con­tri­bu­tion or a do­na­tion of money or other thing of value, or ex­pressly or im­pliedly prom­ise to make a con­tri­bu­tion or a do­na­tion, in con­nec­tion with any Fed­eral, State, or lo­cal elec­tion.”

As law pro­fes­sor Orin Kerr has noted, sim­ply re­lay­ing in­for­ma­tion to a cam­paign is not il­le­gal. For­eign­ers can even work on cam­paigns. The phrase “con­tri­bu­tion or do­na­tion,” Kerr points out, is re­fer­ring to “an eco­nomic trans­ac­tion: Fund­ing the cam­paign.”

So, I’m not ex­actly sure what peo­ple want from Repub­li­cans at this point. Do Democrats want Repub­li­cans to call for a sec­ond in­de­pen­dent coun­sel? Do they want Repub­li­cans to start up a third in­ves­ti­ga­tion in Congress? Or do they re­ally just want Repub­li­cans to be par­a­lyzed? The Se­nate al­ready voted 97-2 last month (and those two “no” votes were from sen­a­tors who can hardly be cat­e­go­rized as proTrump) to ef­fec­tively check Trump on Rus­sia sanc­tions. This is an un­prece­dented re­buke of the for­eign pol­icy power of a rul­ing party’s pres­i­dent. Not ev­ery­thing dis­hon­est is “trea­son” or

an im­peach­able of­fense.

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