Trump, Jr., Kushner, Manafort Violated Foreign Solicitation Ban, Watchdogs Allege in Complaints
- David Vance
Today Common Cause, the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) supplementing a complaint filed by Common Cause on Monday. The expanded complaint alleges that Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort illegally solicited a contribution from a foreign national, and that Kushner, Manafort and Rob Goldstone illegally assisted Donald Trump Jr. in soliciting an illegal political contribution from a foreign national on behalf of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign.
The illegally solicited contribution was in the form of opposition research information, allegedly offered by Russians with ties to the Russian Government and described as damaging to the candidacy of Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton. The original complaint, filed by Common Cause, named only Donald Trump Jr. and the Trump campaign committee, but is being expanded with today’s filing in light of new information published Tuesday via Twitter by Trump Jr. himself in the e-mail exchanges about the meeting with a Russian lawyer, set up by Goldstone and attended by Kushner and Manafort.
“The e-mails released by Donald Trump Jr. reveal, in no uncertain terms, his choice to place his blind support for his father’s candidacy before any allegiance to the nation’s security,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “Democracy is not a real estate deal or a New York solid waste pickup contract, but that is how these three Trump campaign officials treated it in agreeing to meet to accept opposition research they believed came from the Russian government. These revelations require prompt and thorough investigation by the DOJ and FEC for the good of the nation.”
“The evidence is clear that Don Jr. knew that the offer of opposition campaign research came from the Russian government, and the law is clear that giving such valuable research for free would have been a contribution to the Trump campaign,” said Brendan Fischer, director, federal & FEC reform program at Campaign Legal Center (CLC). “By soliciting that contribution and arranging and attending a meeting to receive it, Don Jr. clearly violated the prohibition against soliciting a contribution from a foreign national.”
“The complaint we have filed today is based on information revealed by Donald Trump Jr. that has exploded the argument repeatedly made by President Trump and his associates that there were no contacts by the Trump campaign with Russian actors regarding Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” said Democracy 21 president Fred Wertheimer. “It turns out the President’s own son is Exhibit 1 in demonstrating that the Trump claims of no contacts with Russian actors were not true. Knowingly soliciting contributions, i.e. anything of value to a campaign, from foreign sources is a very serious offense. It is incumbent on the Justice Department and the FEC to investigate the matters set forth in the complaint and take appropriate action.”
Trump Jr. chose to release his e-mail exchange with Goldstone about the meeting with someone he was told was a Russian government attorney, after he was questioned about the exchange by The New York Times, which had obtained the emails through other channels.
The e-mails, which Trump Jr. verified are legitimate, show a clear violation of federal campaign finance law. Trump Jr. received an email from Goldstone offering valuable “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary” collected by the Russian government, responded that he “appreciate[d]” the offer and that he “love[d] it.” Trump Jr. then enthusiastically requested a call with Russian Emin Agalarov to receive the offered information, which Trump described as “Political Opposition Research.” This request by Trump for a call with Agalarov to receive information on Clinton is a solicitation of a contribution under federal campaign finance law. Trump then forwarded the exchange to Kushner and Manafort, under the subject line of “Russia – Clinton – private and confidential,” and a meeting with an intermediary described as a Russian government attorney was scheduled and held by the three campaign officials at Trump Tower in New York.
Whether or not Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort actually received that information remains in question but the request of the meeting itself constitutes a solicitation of a contribution in violation of federal law.
Pursuant to the FEC commissioners’ September 2016 agreement to prioritize expedited treatment of complaints regarding foreign national contributions, review of our complaint should be fast-tracked.
To read the DOJ complaint, click here.
To read the FEC complaint, click here.
To read the initial complaints, click here.