Democrats are freaking out about Donald Trump, Jr.’s latest email revelations. I am not going to defend what the Trump campaign did, nor should any reasonable person who cares for America and our nation’s right to self-determination. It is indefensible political sleaze.
But it’s not a crime.
- David French says it’s not a crime.
- Erick Erickson says it’s not a crime.
- Robert Barnes says it’s not a crime.
- William A. Jacobson says it’s not a crime.
All of the above are lawyers (or former lawyers) of various practices.
Vox (Dylan Matthews) says it’s not treason (but they’re not sure if it may be a crime).
I’m going to side with the lawyers and, for now, absent any other facts, say it’s very probably not a crime to attempt to collude with the Russian government to gain opposition research during a campaign.
Ironically, the opposition dirt promised to the Trump campaign was that Hillary was being secretly funded by Russians. That would be a crime under current campaign law.
Double-ironically, the Clinton campaign did indeed work with foreign government officials and journalists, specifically Ukraine, to get dirt on Trump campaign officials, namely Paul Manafort. Manafort was one of the attendees in Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya.
[Alexandra] Chalupa met with Ukrainian Ambassador Valeriy Chaly and one of his aides, Oksara Shulyar, at the Ukrainian Embassy in March 2016 to talk about unearthing Paul Manafort’s Russian connections, Chalupa admitted to Politico. Four days later, Trump officially hired Manafort.
So why are Democrats freaking out, calling Trump Jr.’s meeting “treason?”
Former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman says Trump Jr. emails are "almost a smoking cannon." Told me "there's no question this is treason."
— Gabby Orr (@gabriellahope_) July 11, 2017
Tim Kaine: "We're now beyond obstruction of justice…this is moving into perjury, false statements, and even into potentially treason." pic.twitter.com/yZ0vuX6mul
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 11, 2017
Fmr CIA Officer on CNN: This is treason.#LockDonJrUp
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) July 11, 2017
(Not all Democrats are riding the crazy train to Treasonville. Notably, Sen. Bernie Sanders called it “ridiculous.” Kudos to the Bern.)
Asked about words like "treason" being used by some now, Sanders says, ""I think those new words are ridiculous."
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) July 11, 2017
The reason they’re so frothing at the mouth over this (triple-ironically, the same reason Sanders isn’t frothing) is that they want moral equivalence with Hillary Clinton’s own crimes, for which she was never prosecuted.
Without a doubt, there was sufficient physical evidence of means and opportunity for Clinton to be charged with multiple felonies for mishandling and exposing classified information to America’s enemies. (That’s not treason either, but closer than Trump’s actions.)
Where the FBI, under Director James Comey, struggled, was over proving intent. The job of Secretary of State enfolds within it enough trust of the U.S. government and the executive branch that it’s difficult to overcome. However, many lawyers disagreed about the height of the hurdle, and the FBI’s responsibility.
Brilliant former prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy wrote that Comey was flat out wrong. Given Clinton’s position, background, knowledge and training as an attorney, he concluded that many reasonable prosecutors would have taken the case to court.
Patently, Hillary Clinton was well aware of (a) the highly classified subject matter of communications that would inevitably be passing through the private e-mail system she set up for State Department business, in violation of statutes and government rules; (b) the fact that e-mails are stored on servers; (c) the fact that the communications facilities and devices used by State Department officials are routinely targeted in cyberattacks by foreign intelligence services and other hostile actors; and (d) the rules for the proper handling of classified information (and potential penalties for mishandling it). Consequently, her mishandling of classified information was knowing and intentional, as well as grossly negligent. Many reasonable prosecutors would salivate at the prospect of taking such a case to court, especially if they knew that Clinton was going to run with a “lack of intent” defense.
In a July 9, 2016 feature, the Washington Post related how FBI investigators struggled with the decision (which was largely political) over whether to recommend charges. There was no doubt they could have done so if they decided to.
Over the course of 16 hours, prosecutors and FBI agents agonized over whether to charge Hillary Clinton with a crime. In the end, after weighing every ounce of evidence, examining piles of documents and gaming out whether a jury would ever convict her, the group made its wrenching decision: no charges.
That doesn’t sound cut-and-dried to me. It sounds like there was ample evidence of a crime, and really the only sticking point was if a jury could be persuaded of Clinton’s intent.
Comparing that to Trump Jr. & Co., they certainly had intent to collude with the Russians. And if the Russians brought the junk in their trunk, they’d have consummated the collusion with glee and champagne. But collusion on the basis of opposition data, regardless of Russia’s intent to help one candidate (which is rightly a matter of foreign policy), is not illegal in itself.
If the Russians offered, say, to hack the DNC on behalf of the Trump campaign and provide the fruits of that criminal venture, sure, that’s conspiracy in various forms, but that’s not what the emails show. The emails show nothing more than what the DNC and Clinton campaign had done to gain oppo research on Trump.
Democrats are freaking out because they know their failed candidate committed crimes for which she was not prosecuted, obtained a deal with the Justice Department to abide by the FBI’s decision, during a private on-the-tarmac meeting between then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton, and followed through. Every aspect of the Clinton email investigation was tainted by political influence.
Clinton got a pass, and she knows it. And every Democrat now calling Trump Jr.’s action “treason” knows it. They want equivalence so that later they can claim nobody has the high ground.
It’s true nobody has the high ground. But Clinton’s low ground, legally speaking (we won’t even delve into Sidney Blumenthal’s antics over two decades), is much, much lower than Trump Jr.’s.
The facts stand: Hillary Clinton committed felonies which were not prosecuted. Donald Trump Jr., on the facts in evidence, committed no crime.