What Does Donald Trump Jr.’s Sleazy Meeting Actually Mean for the Future of the Trump Presidency?


Jed Shugerman was quoted in a Slate article about Donald Trump Jr’s email exchange with a Russian government official.

The emails Trump Jr. and the New York Times released show him accepting an offer of “support” from the “Russian government” that was delivered by an intermediary named Rob Goldstone. Specifically, Goldstone offered dirt that would “incriminate Hillary Clinton.” Some election-law experts believe this violated the federal law that prohibits campaigns from soliciting or accepting material “of value” from a “foreign national”—the idea being that damaging information about Clinton constituted material of value. Others disagree; in a post announcing he’s changed his mind on the question, for example, Fordham law professor Jed Shugerman writes that criminalizing what Trump Jr. did “would criminalize a campaign official talking to foreign nationals about anything related to the opponent or even their own candidate,” raising the hypothetical case of an Obama campaign operative in 2012 calling someone in Kenya to try to debunk a bogus claim about the former president’s place of birth. All such questions directed to foreigners, Shugerman says he now thinks, would constitute protected speech—unless, perhaps, the questioner knew that the information he or she was trying to obtain had been collected illegally.


Shugerman also writes that he couldn’t find any past cases in which a representative of a political campaign was actually prosecuted for simply asking a foreign national for information. So it doesn’t seem, for now, like Don Jr. is in much danger. It may be an extremely “bad look,” as teens (?) say, for the Trump campaign to have responded affirmatively to the vague offer of Russian government “support,” but there’s no public evidence (yet) that the campaign solicited or accepted the kind of money or services that would make for an obviously prosecutable case.


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