July 12th, 2017

President Donald John Trump’s official statement on his son’s email chain regarding a 3 June 2016 meeting was:

My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency.

That high-quality son, Donald John Trump Jr., commenting on his release of the email chain wrote:

To everyone, in order to be totally transparent, I am releasing the entire email chain of my emails with Rob Goldstone about the meeting on June 9, 2016.

Exercising the public relations tactic of getting ahead of the story is not transparency, however. I can’t imagine that Donald Jr. would have have taken this extraordinary step if he didn’t know that The New York Times (and other real news organizations) were already in possession of the emails and preparing to release them.

Trump apologists are attempting to use the excuse that Donald Jr. was naive and ignorant of the consequences of such a meeting, but there is no possibility that candidate Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort—who quit that post on 19 August—was not aware that:

A foreign national shall not, directly or indirectly, make a contribution or a donation of money or other thing of value, or expressly or impliedly promise to make a contribution or a donation, in connection with any Federal, State, or local election.

According to Larry Noble, Senior Director, Ethics, & General Counsel of The Campaign Legal Center:

Noble of the Campaign Legal Center explained by phone that there was no extricating Trump Jr. from the Trump campaign.

“I think there’s no question he was an agent of the campaign,” Noble said. “He was holding himself out as representing the campaign. He was speaking on behalf of the campaign. It would be hard for them to argue he wasn’t acting as an agent of the campaign, that he was acting independently, particularly because he brought in other people from the campaign with him” to the meeting. Random people can say that they’re doing work for a candidate, but random people can’t get the campaign chairman to show up when asked.

Mind you, whether he was an agent of the campaign is irrelevant for the legal issues that are raised by the emails. The Washington Post spoke with experts who believe that emails show Trump Jr. having probably “crossed the line on conspiracy to commit election fraud or conspiracy to obtain information from a foreign adversary.”

That last part alone is illegal, Noble explained.

“Anyone soliciting a foreign contribution is violating the law,” he said — and that includes opposition research, such as what was embraced by Trump Jr. One legal bar is whether someone provides “substantial assistance” to obtaining something of value from a foreign national. “Given the emails,” Noble said, “I think that’s substantial assistance.”

But, yet again, beside the point.

“Had he been running the Trump businesses and not been involved in the campaign. Not been traveling on behalf of the campaign. Not been speaking out for his father,” Noble said, “they might have an argument” that Trump Jr. wasn’t acting on behalf of the campaign. Trump Jr. didn’t need an official campaign title to be part of the campaign — and, besides, Noble said, he had one. Son.

President Richard Milhous Nixon bunkered down in the White House for the 566 days of his second term before resigning on 9 August 1974. President Trump is now on Day 172 of his first (and only?) term.

The clock is ticking

There is, of course, much, much more: Donald Trump Jr. Is His Own ‘Deepthroat’ and A Russian, an Email and an Idiot: Did Donald Trump Jr. Incriminate Himself?

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