By now, everyone in the world who can read or owns a television knows about Don Jr’s escapade with the Russians. Eager to get dirt on Hillary that might help’s his father’s campaign, Jr agreed to meet with a Russian lawyer who was an agent of the Kremlin. But not only did he agree to meet, he was ecstatic about possibly getting information that would damage Hillary. Unfortunately for him, his email reply to the person setting up the meeting revealed his enthusiasm and apparent willingness to do anything to assist his father in the race. The proper reaction to this contact by a Russian would have been for Don Jr to notify the FBI. But why let some good dirt on Hillary possibly go to waste?

Not unsurprisingly, his father did not see anything wrong in what he did, though receiving anything of value from a foreign entity to aid in an election is illegal. Apparently, he was not offered any money, but information about an opposition candidate is also considered beneficial. Don Jr denies that he obtained any data that would have assisted his father or hurt Hillary. But can this be taken at face value when he and his teammates have lied so frequently before, during, and after the campaign. Even this story about the meeting has changed several times as investigative reporters dug up more facts about the meeting/conspiracy? Don’s big mistake was writing an email about the contact which remains as a permanent record of his interaction. Even if it wasn’t illegal, it certainly was unethical.

Several questions are raised by the episode. The first is whether big Don was knowledgeable about what was taking place. Though Jr insists that his father was not aware of the meeting, this is what the Trumpies want the public to believe, so that Don Sr would not be implicated in any possible illegal act. However, it is unlikely that big Don did not know what was going on, as the Trumpies are a tight knit clan ruled with an iron hand by the father. If Jr thought he might be getting some information that would hurt Hillary, he almost certainly would have told his father, though that might be difficult to prove.

The second question is whether an action with intent to break the law is in itself illegal, or does something of value actually have to be passed between the foreign person and the American. Again, whether information of value was transferred or not during the interaction would have to come from someone who was in the room. This is fantasy, as no one would be interested in self-incrimination. Other matters that could have helped the Trump campaign could also have occurred in that meeting. Shutterstock_231013246 Decisions might have been made about how the Russian information damaging to Hillary should be released, and who should actually release it. Obviously, it could not be the Russians directly, so they would have to use an intermediary like Wiki-leaks which could not be traced back to them. The scheduled release of the information to have the most impact on Hillary’s campaign might also have been determined at the meeting. But it is unlikely that the public or the investigators will ever know for certain what transpired.

The way this transaction between the Russians and the Trump team was handled was not very professional, with a permanent record from both sides that could be used in court as evidence. You can bet that Mueller and his investigators will be following through on the meeting to see if it can be tied to Russian hacking or others efforts by the Russians to undermine Hillary’s campaign. Though Jr is obviously a con man like his father, he doesn’t have the same years of scamming, lying and cheating behind him to help his performance. Give him time and he’ll get better at it. He is a chip off the old block.

Resurrecting Democracy

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ROBERT A. LEVINE, TMV Columnist
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