March 12, 2018


Mueller's Choice of Criminal Charges: Why the Trump Team Should Be Very Worried (SAM BERGER, MARCH 12, 2018,  Just Security)

Ryan Goodman recently highlighted an important revelation contained in the memo written by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee: Not only had the Russians told the Trump campaign that they had dirt on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails, but they had also previewed for George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser on the campaign, that they could help with disseminating them.

Goodman and the experts he spoke with identified four types of actions that could create criminal liability for the Trump team stemming from this new information: if the campaign consulted with the Russians on their plans to disseminate the emails, if the Trump campaign gave tacit assent or approval or support, if Trump officials intentionally encouraged the Russians, or if they sought to conceal the facts of a crime. Just looking at the publicly available information shows the outlines of a potential legal case against members of the Trump team along these very lines.

As campaign finance law expert Paul S. Ryan points out, campaigns cannot coordinate with foreign nationals on any expenditure that seeks to influence a U.S. election. Coordination includes cooperation, consultation, or acting in concert with, or at the request or suggestion of the candidate or his team. A key word is or--each of those actions could independently suffice to establish a violation.

The emails to set up the now infamous June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting contain a particularly incriminating piece of evidence on this score. While significant focus has been given to Donald Trump Jr.'s enthusiastic response to the offer of damaging information on Clinton as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump," equal attention should be paid to the rest of his response, in which he says that such information would be helpful "especially later in the summer." In this statement, Trump Jr. was not only communicating a willingness to collude with Russia; he was also telling them when the campaign thought the release of such information would be most politically useful. What's more, as Bob Bauer has noted, when Trump Jr. told the Russian lawyer the information that she presented on Clinton-related donors was not valuable, he "aided the Russians by providing access to its judgments about attacks that would be ineffective." That too was a form of consultation and assistance.

Posted by at March 12, 2018 6:22 PM