11:09, July 11 485 0 abajournal.com

2017-07-11 11:09:04
Did Donald Trump Jr.‘s meeting with Russian lawyer violate election law?

Three sources told the New York Times that Trump Jr. was informed in an email from publicist Rob Goldstone that the offered information was part of an effort by the Russian government to help his father’s presidential bid.

That development has pundits considering the reach of a federal law that bar foreign nationals or foreign governments from giving money or “anything of value” to a political campaign, report the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) and NBC News. The law also makes it a felony to knowingly and willfully solicit, accept or receive a donation or thing of value from a foreign national.

In complaints filed with the Federal Election Commission and the U.S. Justice Department, Common Cause contends the meeting amounted to a solicitation of helpful information, and that violated the law, the Washington Times reports. But experts who spoke with the publications said it’s unclear whether there was a violation.

Trump Jr. has admitted that he went to the meeting to receive information that could be helpful to the campaign, but did not indicate he thought the lawyer was acting for the Russian government, according to the Times story. Nor is there any indication that the damaging information was related to the computer hack of Democratic emails.

Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and then campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended the meeting.

Trump Jr. said he ended the meeting after the Russian lawyer offered nothing of consequence and began to talk about a law halting the adoption of Russian children.

University of Buffalo law professor James Gardner said it’s a stretch to define a “thing of value” as information.

“Ordinarily, the term ‘thing of value’ in campaign finance law refers to things that, like money itself, have value as a resource that the recipient can transform into a candidate’s campaign expenditures,” he told the Washington Times. “I would think that there could be constitutional problems in construing ‘thing of value’ so broadly as to include the voluntary provision of information, [such as] speech.”

White-collar litigator Jeffrey Jacobovitz, a partner at Arnall Golden Gregory who has represented Clinton administration officials, told the Washington Post he saw a possible violation of the law.

“You may have crossed the line on conspiracy to commit election fraud or conspiracy to obtain information from a foreign adversary,” he said. “You cannot benefit from a foreign adversary in this kind of scenario.”