Here’s a radical idea: It is entirely possible to believe what DJ Trump did was stupid while not treasonous.
Was it illegal? Possibly. As Eugene Volokh, Professor of Law at UCLA and overseer of the Volokh Conspiracy Blog, notes it appears Courts would find it illegal:
Foreigners who aren’t U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents, the argument goes, are barred from providing candidates any “thing of value” in connection with any American election campaign. Campaign staff are barred from soliciting any “thing of value” from such foreigners. And, the argument goes, valuable political information about an opponent’s misdeeds is a “thing of value.”
That would also include if a foreign national, living in the US notified a campaign about irregularities.
But, Volokh thinks the law might violate the 1st Amendment.
Yet that, it seems to me, can’t be right. It would raise obvious First Amendment problems: First, noncitizens, and likely even non-permanent-residents, in the United States have broad First Amendment rights. See Bridges v. Wixon, 326 U.S. 135 (1945) (“freedom of speech and of press is accorded aliens residing in this country”); Underwager v. Channel 9 Australia, 69 F.3d 361 (9th Cir. 1995) (“We conclude that the speech protections of the First Amendment at a minimum apply to all persons legally within our borders,” including ones who are not permanent residents).
Second, Americans have the right to receive information even from speakers who are entirely abroad. See Lamont v. Postmaster General, 381 U.S. 301 (1965). Can Americans — whether political candidates or anyone else — really be barred from asking questions of foreigners, just because the answers might be especially important to voters?
He also noted people are claiming Trump the Younger actually received anything of value. (Indeed it is not even clear what evidence of dirt on Hillary was proffered). DJ Trump’s met with supposed members of a foreign government and it is probably a stretch to equate information given by a government to work performed by a citizen of a foreign government. You can read the whole post here
I happen to agree with Volokh. If the law was as broad as some are asserting it is, the law would be unconstitutional for being overly broad.
I can’t imagine not wanting to know what the Russians claimed they had. Depending on what was presented as evidence, I may also want to let the FBI know about the situation. We are, after all, talking about someone who was in the very inner circles of power. If the Russians disclose a major bombshell about what Clinton did while in government, it may suggest there is at least one Russian agent inside the White House or State Department. I would think people would want to know.
(And if the Russians were prepared to give up something that juicy, it would also mean they had access to far worse evidence of wrong doing).
And as Volokh notes, why should Americans not be told of something just because the source is not American, but Russian? If the information is relevant, it should not matter where it came from.
(It also possible the supposed dirt was something already known and reported on in the press. During the Cold War, KGB agents in the United States were known to take stories they read in the New York Times and Washington Post and send reports based on those stories, taking credit for the ‘intelligence’.)
The problem with the way DJ Trump and the other folks running the campaign handled it, was the seeming complete lack of awareness regarding who was offering this information. Since 2012, Republicans had been hammering the Obama Administration over their coddling of Putin. How many times did Republicans post videos of Mitt Romney warning about the Russians in 2012 and Obama’s snide comment about the 1980s?
On some level, you would have to wonder why this was being offered to you. Why are the Russians being so nice? What do they want in return? Are they trying to blackmail me?
(The great irony of course is if this was some sort of blackmail attempt by the FSB, they probably picked the one person who is probably blackmail proof. Based on the response to every accusation made against Trump since the beginning of his campaign, one gets the feeling he would simply dismiss it as “fake news” and move on. Blackmail only works if you can embarrass the target. And Trump seems incapable of that emotion).
As I mentioned yesterday, the people running Trump 2016 are not Mensa Candidates. DJ Trump, Manafort, and Roger Stone remind me of characters from a Tim Dorsey novel, specifically Elroy, Slow, and Slower from Coconut Cowboy (though not necessarily in that order). I mean look at this from the emails DJ Trump published yesterday:
It was 100 years ago this year the Tsar was deposed and the Russian monarchy abolished. The end of the Soviet Union did not restore Royal Authority. So why in the name of all that is holy didn’t someone wonder about the Russian Crown Prosecutor?
Plus it apparently never occurred to them to ask why a British music promoter had such pull with the Russian government. Music promoters can barely get meetings with record labels, why would you think they could get you access to dirt held by the <ahem> Russian Crown Prosecutor?
Ultimately, the “professionals” running political campaigns need to treat emails from Russians claiming they wish to share dirt on an opponent the same way every sane person treats emails from Nigerian Princes claiming they have a vast fortune they wish to share:
Mark it as Spam and move on.