When Donald Trump, Jr. tweeted out an email chain on Tuesday about meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer, he created some serious legal issues for himself — his recent social media activity may be making it worse.
In an email to Trump Jr., music publicist Rod Goldstone said the Russian government had “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary” and wanted to give this information to the campaign as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” (Goldstone represents the son of a Russian billionaire with close ties to the Kremlin.)
“[I]f it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. responded.
Agreeing to meet with a foreign national with the expectation that something of value, including valuable information, will be provided, violates federal election law.
Common Cause filed a complaint on Monday alleging that Trump Jr. “solicited a contribution from a foreign national in violation of the Federal Election Committee Act.”
Adding to Trump Jr.’s legal woes is his Twitter habit. Trump Jr. has “liked” tweets that mention him attending the meeting in order to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. Trump Jr., for example, liked this tweet from conservative writer John Nolte on Wednesday:
Paul S. Ryan, the Vice President of Policy and Litigation at Common Cause, who filed the complaint against Trump Jr., says “Donald Trump Jr. ‘liking’ this Tweet is, in my view, evidence that Trump did, indeed, want the oppo research on Clinton.” His Twitter activity, Ryan says, underscores what was previously known from his emails with Goldstein.
Trump Jr. is also creating problems for himself on television.
On a Tuesday night appearance on Sean Hannity’s show, Trump Jr. presented his current story: the email promised opposition research on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government; he attended the meeting (along with Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner); the meeting wound up being about Russian adoption policy; and in the end, according to Trump Jr., the information discussed was “such a nothing.”
Federal law, however, states that “no person shall knowingly solicit, accept or receive from a foreign national any contribution or donation,” according to Title 11 in the Code of Federal Regulations, section 110.20 (g).
Solicitation is defined by the Code of Federal Regulations as:
“To ask, request, or recommend, explicitly or implicitly, that another person make a contribution, donation, transfer of funds, or otherwise provide anything of value.”
“Anything of value” in this case meaning damaging information on Hillary Clinton, information that Goldstone himself has described in the emails as “very useful” to the Trump campaign.
Trump’s defense is that he did not receive anything of value. But that is not a defense because the law also prohibits solicitation, whether or not anything is received.
President Trump has defended Trump Jr.’s actions, describing it as routine opposition research meeting. Opposition research, however, does not come from a foreign adversary.