Donald Trump Jr's emails released on Tuesday offer fairly clear evidence that the president's son broke campaign-finance law, according to legal experts.
It is illegal to solicit or accept campaign contributions from foreign nationals. Campaign contributions are defined as “anything of value,” which includes information and political opposition research.
In emails the president’s eldest son posted to Twitter just as "The New York Times" published an exposé, he explains he met with a Russian lawyer last June to get “incriminating” information on Hillary Clinton.
In the email thread with a subject line that read, “Russia – Clinton – private and confidential,” Trump Jr wrote that he’d “love” to get information the information that a mutual contact of Trump and the Russians said would “incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russian and would be very useful to” his father.
Here is page 4 (which did not post due to space constraints). pic.twitter.com/z1Xi4nr2gq— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 11, 2017
Here's my statement and the full email chain pic.twitter.com/x050r5n5LQ— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 11, 2017
Campaign finance expert and law professor at University of California Irvine Rick Hasen said it’s “hard to see how there is not a serious case here of solicitation.”
“Trump Jr. appears to have knowledge of the foreign source and is asking to see it,” he said.
Norm Eisen, special counsel for ethics and government reform under former President Barack Obama, said the Donald Trump Jr email “clearly violates campaign finance law and likely implicates Don Jr. and campaign under conspiracy statute.”
President Donald Trump, however, defended his son, calling him a “high-quality person.”
In an off-camera afternoon White House briefing, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read a prepared statement from the president.
“My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency,” the statement read. Trump had so far been silent on the growing controversy around the meeting last summer, which went public on Saturday.
Washington-based government watchdogs Common Cause filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department on Tuesday asking them to investigate Trump Jr for soliciting a foreign contribution.
“Whether or not he actually received that information does not matter in the eyes of the law. Trump’s solicitation of the information is what constitutes the violation,” Paul S. Ryan Common Cause vice president for policy and litigation said in a statement.
The emails refer to “some official documents” and Ryan said if Trump Jr accepted any documents as a campaign contribution from a foreign national, it would be an additional crime.
A spokesman for Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, declined to comment, HuffPost reported.