President Trump has weighed in for the first time on the unfolding story involving son Donald Trump Jr. and his meeting with a Russian lawyer. "My son is a high-quality person, and I applaud his transparency," the president said in a statement read by deputy press chief Sarah Huckabee Sanders. It came after his son tweeted out his full email exchange with a supporter in Russia that set up last year's meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya.
- Illegal? The Washington Post assesses whether Trump Jr. did anything illegal. One key question is whether he conspired, or attempted to conspire, with a foreign nation to sway the election, and the fact that he went ahead with the meeting after being told the information coming from the Russian government could hurt Hillary Clinton. "It's a shocking admission of criminal conspiracy," says a Cornell prof.
- But what about Clinton? As Twitchy points out, Trump supporters are wondering why this is such a huge scandal, but news that Ukraine tried to help Clinton is not. See this Politico investigation from January.
- The statute: The one in question is here. One key part states, "A foreign national shall not, directly or indirectly, make a contribution or a donation of money or other thing of value" in a federal, state, or local election. In this case, "thing of value" could apply. Another part says, “No person shall knowingly solicit, accept, or receive from a foreign national any contribution or donation," and here "contribution" could be broadly defined.
- Smoking gun? At the Election Law Blog, Rick Hasen has been digging into the specifics of campaign finance law and concludes that it's "hard to see how there is not a serious case here of solicitation" from a foreign entity. It's "pretty close to the smoking gun people were looking for."
- President's role: The White House has said Trump did not participate in the meeting or even know about it. If evidence to the contrary surfaces that he knew of his campaign's dealings with the Kremlin, "the comparison to Watergate wouldn’t overstate the severity of the Trump-Russia scandal; it would understate it," writes Yochi Dreazen at Vox.
- The t-word: Sen. Tim Kaine, Clinton's running mate, said Trump Jr.'s action goes beyond something such as obstruction of justice and is "moving into false statements, perjury, and even potentially treason," per CNN. To which GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch replied, "You got to be kidding." A post at Axios digs into the definition of treason, and it seems that Hatch is correct.
- Defense of Trump Jr.: At Power Line, John Hinderaker writes that the newly released emails back up what Trump Jr. has said. They show he "correctly described what he was told and why he agreed to the meeting." It would have been foolish of him to turn down a chance to see opposition research. "Nothing about that process reflects poorly on him at all."
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