Has Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, committed treason?
Steve Bannon, the former White House chief political strategist, suggests as much in comments attributed to him in an explosive new book, “Fire and Fury,” about the inner workings of the Trump administration and the 2016 presidential campaign.
In the telling of author Michael Wolff, Bannon was outraged that Trump Jr. set up and took part in a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have damaging information about Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager at the time, and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, also attended.
"The three senior guys in the (Trump) campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor..." Wolff quotes Bannon as saying. "Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s***, and I happen to think it's all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately."
Lawyer friends tell me that treason probably overstates Trump Jr.’s actions – the U.S. wasn’t at war with Russia. But it seems clear that, as Common Cause alleged last summer, the meeting participants likely violated federal law barring American political candidates from soliciting contributions from foreign nationals.
On July 10, shortly after the news of the Trump Tower meeting broke, Common Cause and two other watchdog groups complained to the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission about a possible violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act.
“Under federal law, providing anything of value, including the fruits of paid research, hacking, or similar investigatory activity, to a campaign is an in-kind ‘contribution,’ and expressing approval and requesting a meeting to receive that in-kind contribution is a ‘solicitation,’ the complaint noted. “The law prohibits soliciting contributions from foreign nationals. Russian citizens and the Russian government are foreign nationals.”
The FEC has not responded to our complaint – no surprise there given its ongoing dysfunction – and we don’t know if Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the Justice Department investigation of Russian’s election meddling, has incorporated possible election law violations into his inquiry.
We do know that Mueller has a reputation as a relentless and meticulous investigator however. So chances are that we’ve not heard the last of this part of the growing evidence that the Trump campaign was looking for help wherever it could find it, including Russia.
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Voting and Elections