Was Trump Jr.’s Meeting With Russian Lawyer Illegal?

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Several legal experts weighed in on whether Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer last year during his father's campaign crossed legal boundaries.

Donald Trump Jr. waves as he exits Trump Tower in New York

Donald Trump Jr. may have just barely missed crossing the line into illegal territory when he met with a Russian lawyer, according to legal experts.

Trump Jr. essentially confirmed early Tuesday that he agreed to meet with a Russian lawyer who had incriminating information on Hillary Clinton after receiving an email that the Russian government wanted to help his father win the 2016 presidential election.

Following the troubling revelation, the question of collusion has come into play. "Collusion" is a political term that suggests collaborating with a foreign adversary, The Washington Post notes.

While colluding is not a punishable offense by law, conspiring with a foreign adversary to influence or undermine an election certainly is.

Jeffrey Jacobovitz, a white-collar attorney who previously represented officials in the Clinton White House, reportedly believes that Trump Jr.’s actions — as evidenced by his now-public emails — could fall into the category of conspiring.

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

Jacobovitz is not alone in his assessment either: "It's a shocking admission of a criminal conspiracy," said the associate dean of Cornell Law School, Jens David Ohlin.

"The conversation will now turn to whether President Trump was personally involved or not,” he continued. “But the question of the campaign's involvement appears settled now. The answer is yes."

New York University School of Law professor Samuel Issacharoff also offered his two cents on the legality of the meeting.

“If the meeting is as described, it would raise serious issues of liability under laws restricting foreign participation and influence in American elections,” he said, according to Politifact

Ultimately, it boils down to determining if Trump Jr. agreed to have the meeting with clear knowledge of the Russian government’s intent to help the Trump campaign and sabotage Clinton’s — which would be about as close to conspiracy (which is illegal) as one can get.

“If he received an email in advance saying, 'This is coming from the Russian government,' he's certainly knowledgeable about where the information is coming from,” Jacobovitz said. “And he attempts to attend a meeting with the hope and intent to obtain inside dirt on Hillary Clinton. That would go a long way in trying to determine whether it's conspiracy. … It's not as if he walks into the meeting and he's surprised by what he's hearing.”

There is a whole host of other laws that could have been broken in this situation — particularly if it comes to light that President Trump had knowledge or was in some way involved in this meeting — including bribery, potential perjury, and quid pro quo with the Russians, according to The Washington Post.

Politifact notes that at the very least, the core issue is whether U.S. federal election law was broken, which is very serious in and of itself.

But the real underlying question is: What does all of this seemingly incriminating evidence against the Trump administration really mean? 

Michael S. Kang, a law professor at Emory University Law School, reportedly said that despite all of this new information, a prosecutor taking up the case as these damning facts come to light is the next issue.

"It could end up a different thing to establish a sufficiently clear case, factually and legally, to justify prosecution," Kang said, according to Politifact.

Later, he added, "the email chain begins to fill in gaps about the factual record."

With any luck, the case will eventually be prosecuted and bring us closer to impeachment. This level of corruption and disregard for transparency is a disgrace to democracy as we know it. 

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