There is a lot of "news" floating around about Donald Trump Jr. There is little doubt that he lied about meeting with Russians, but did he break the law? Will he be prosecuted?
So this was all legal?Here's where things get tricky. Bob Bauer, President Obama's White House Counsel, spelled out at JustSecurity.org how what Trump Jr. did could be construed as a breach of federal campaign law. Bauer argues that it is illegal for an American citizen to provide "substantial assistance" to a foreign national "providing a 'thing of value" to influence an election."
"It is also illegal to solicit a contribution or expenditure–any 'thing of value;–from a foreign national," Bauer writes. "…A solicitation also need not be express[ed]: it can be implied."
Barak Cohen, a former federal prosecutor, sounded a similar note to The Washington Post. "The emails tell me that he's aware that the Russian government is trying to influence the election in favor of Trump, and they also indicate an intent, at least on the part of Donald Trump Jr., to entertain the idea of working with the Russians in their efforts," Cohen told the paper. "It raises a number of potential areas of liability."
However, attorney Shannen Coffin, a former counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney, told CBS News that it's "a real stretch to call it an FEC violation and it doesn't fit treason." He added that to call the information provided by the Russian lawyer a "thing of value" is "a ridiculous stretch."
George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley concurred, telling CBS News that the idea that the meeting might be in violation of campaign finance laws "truly otherworldly." He added that there has been "no case in history" that has considered information "a thing of value," and if it were, "any journalist would be in violation of federal law."
Is there any legal jeopardy here?All of this could change if Trump Jr., Kushner, or Manafort lied to any law enforcement officials about the meeting. As far as Trump Jr. is concerned, he has only misled journalists so far, which is not a crime. But it's likely to catch the attention of prosecutors.
"Conflicting stories for prosecutors," says Turley, are "like blood in the water for a shark. It attracts prosecutors and investigators. They want to know why there's conflicts."
Further, do those Trump Jr. emails contradict any information campaign associates have already provided to the FBI? If so, that could lead to criminal charges, CBS News' Julianna Goldman points out.
And for Kushner -- why didn't he disclose the meeting when he submitted his government security clearance form?
If one of these guys gave a false statement to a federal officer, we might be looking at a clear-cut felony.
"The government tends to use false statements to prosecute people in Washington more than any other crime," says Turley.
Tuesday evening, CBS News is reporting that Trump Jr.'s emails and meeting with the Russian lawyer fall under the special counsel's mandate and are expected to be looked at by investigators as part of the overall collusion investigation. CBS