Donald Trump spent most of 2016 trying to focus America’s attention on Hillary Clinton’s emails, leaked and hidden. Hardly a day passed without a new release-the-emails demand from candidate Trump or one of his surrogates.
So there’s more than a little irony in today’s explosive disclosure of emails sent by and to Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, declaring his interest, indeed eagerness, in exploiting or at least cooperating in Russian government efforts to help Trump Sr. win the presidency.
Trump Jr.’s late morning release of the electronic messages, apparently to preempt an about-to-publish story from The New York Times, provides the most powerful evidence yet that the president and his inner circle have been lying for a year or more about Russian interference in the election and their potential involvement in it.
“If these e-mails are not a hoax, they are the smoking gun showing that Donald Trump Jr. illegally solicited a contribution from a foreign national - in the form of opposition research against Hillary Clinton - as our complaints yesterday alleged,” said Paul Seamus Ryan, Common Cause’s vice president for policy and litigation.
“These e-mails show a clear violation of federal campaign finance law,” Ryan added. “Trump Jr. received the offer of valuable ‘official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary’ from Russia, responded that he ‘appreciate[d]’ the offer and that he ‘love[d] it,’” Ryan added.
The emails spawned a June 9, 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law; Paul Manafort, then chairman of the Trump campaign; and Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer whom the Trump people apparently believed was prepared to give them information about Clinton obtained by the Russian government.
Ryan said Trump Jr.’s insistence that the campaign got no such information is legally unimportant.
“Trump’s solicitation of the information is what constitutes the violation,” he said. “Further, the emails released by Trump today indicate that the offer of opposition research on Clinton included ‘some official documents.’ If Trump left the meeting with those documents, then he apparently accepted an illegal contribution from a foreign national, which is an additional violation of federal law.
“It is shocking that Donald Trump Jr. did not immediately contact federal authorities when he was offered information, supposedly from the Russian government, intended to undermine the 2016 election,” Ryan added. “Donald Trump Jr. clearly chose to put his father’s campaign before his country and that is deeply troubling.”
Disclosure of the emails rocked the Capitol. Vice President Mike Pence, buttonholed by reporters in a hallway, ignored their shouted questions; his office later issued a statement insisting Pence “is not focused on stories about the campaign, particularly stories about the time before he joined the ticket." Meanwhile, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, who ran against Pence on the Clinton ticket, suggested the ongoing investigation of possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign “is now a treason investigation.”
Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee and a sometimes sharp critic of Trump, said the disclosure is more proof that “this is a serious investigation, one that is a long way from over.”
Office: Common Cause National