President Trump may have just admitted to collusion on his Twitter account, saying the June 2016 meeting with well-connected Russians at Trump Tower was for obtaining opposition research on Hillary Clinton.
“This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!” Trump tweeted on Sunday.
Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 5, 2018
This tweet is a stark departure from the official statement that the meeting was simply to discuss changing adoption policies of Russian children. As CBS News pointed out, the original argument from Donald Trump Jr. — who was present at the meeting along with President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort — eventually morphed into an admission in September of 2017 during a Senate testimony that the meeting was, in fact, to obtain dirt on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
When the news broke about the Trump Tower meeting, then-White House communications director Hope Hicks helped draft the initial statement with Trump Jr., which President Trump reportedly dictated aboard Air Force One. More recently, former Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen said last week that his former boss indeed knew about the June 2016 meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya about potential dirt on Clinton before the meeting even took place.
All of that along with Sunday’s tweet means President Trump may have helped Special Counsel Robert Mueller make the argument that Trump and his campaign colluded with a foreign government to win the 2016 election. While collusion itself is technically not a crime unless it’s in reference a violation of antitrust laws, the meeting could still fall under the charge of conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud the United States, outlined in 18 U.S. Code § 371.
And as former Department of Homeland Security official Paul Rosenzweig told Politico Magazine, the Trump Tower meeting could also be seen as a violation of several federal laws, including laws prohibiting foreign nationals from interfering in U.S. elections.
[I]f Donald Trump Jr. sought “dirt” on Hillary Clinton from the Russians, he might be charged with conspiring to violate the election laws of the United States, which prohibit foreign nationals from contributing any “thing of value” to an electoral campaign. The opposition dirt is at least plausibly a thing of value. And to the extent that the Trump campaign aided, abetted or advised the Russians (or any other hackers) about what would be most useful to steal from the Democrats or how best to enhance the impact of their release, they may well have violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Any potential Computer Fraud and Abuse Act violations could stem from then-candidate Donald Trump openly suggesting at a press conference that Russian hackers should hack into Hillary Clinton’s email servers during the campaign. As one of Mueller’s indictments stated, Russian hackers actually did target more than two dozen email accounts associated with the Clinton campaign on July 27 — the same day Trump asked Russians to obtain the emails.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said at the July 27, 2016 press conference. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Scott Alden is a freelance contributor covering national politics, education, and environmental issues. He is a proud Toledo University graduate, and lives in the suburbs of Detroit.