It’s Not Clear That Donald Trump Jr. Violated the Law

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The disclosure that Donald Trump Jr., agreed to meet with a Kremlin-linked lawyer last year after being promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton has escalated discussion about whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia’s interference in the election. An intermediary promised the younger. Trump that a “Russian government attorney” would provide “very high level” dirt on Mrs. Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” the New York Times reports. “If it’s what you say I love it,” Trump Jr. responded in an email exchange he made public after he learned that the Times was about to publish an article about its contents. Trump Jr. has said the lawyer had no meaningful information about Mrs. Clinton.

“Collusion” means working together, usually in secret, to do something illicit. The term has no defined legal meaning. Conspiracy is generally an agreement by two or more people to commit a crime — whether or not they do. The events made public in the past few days are not enough to charge conspiracy, said Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor. Another former prosecutor, Samuel Buell, said, “Anytime you are talking about coordinating or collusion, you are talking about the possibility of conspiracy charges. But conspiracy is not a crime that floats by itself in the air. There has to be an underlying federal offense that is being conspired to be committed.” A federal law makes it a crime for any foreigner to contribute or donate money or some “other thing of value” in connection with a U.S. or for anyone to solicit a foreigner to do so. Legal experts struggled to identify any precedent for prosecutions under that statute, but that phrase is common in other federal criminal statutes covering such crimes as bribery and threats.

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