[ I cannot begin to express how much I resent having to keep writing posts on this topic.]
The New York Times has reported that a Russian lawyer ( Various reports use the intentionally sinister addition “with ties to state-owned enterprises and to a senior government official.” which simply means that the lawyer had represented them. This isexactly like saying that a criminal defense lawyer “has ties to the mob”because he once represented a gangster. It is despicable journalism, biased and misleading) met with Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort and the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, having been told that she could offer access to negative information about Hillary Clinton. The three members of the Trump campaign quickly discovered that she could not, and wanted to lobby the group on another matter.
Don Jr. said in a statement that he had met with the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, at the request of an acquaintance and denied that he received any information on Clinton.
“After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton,” he said. “Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”
Trump Jr. added that Veselnitskaya changed the subject and began discussing the adoption of Russian children and moved the conversation towards the Magnitsky Act, the 2012 bill that blocks certain Russian officials’ entrance to the U.S. and their use of the U.S. banking system. “It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting,” he concluded.
That’s it. That’s the whole thing. Yet all the news stations and news sites are treating this like it is a smoking gun, proof of impeachable offenses by Donald Trump and crimes by his campaign. There is wall to wall coverage, and it is, based on what we know thus far, nothing at all but anti-Trump hype and more of the apparently endless effort by the news media and Democrats to keep the Russian collusion narrative going without any genuine fuel.
I was saddened to see Richard Painter, a solid legal ethicist who has helped drive traffic away from my favorite ethics site by turning it into his own personal Trump attack page with over-heated theories obviously cooked up by a brain derailed by a Trump obsession. On MSNBC , Richard fumed,
“This was an effort to get opposition research on an opponent in an American political campaign from the Russians, who were known to be engaged in spying inside the United States. We do not get our opposition research from spies, we do not collaborate with Russian spies, unless we want to be accused of treason. . . . If this story is true, we’d have one of them if not both of them in custody by now, and we’d be asking them a lot of questions. This is unacceptable. This borders on treason, if it is not itself treason.”
This guy was once a rational lawyer, believe it or not. Natalia Veselnitskaya was not “the Russians,” but a Russian. She was not a spy. The meeting and its original intent didn’t constitute a crime, and it was certainly not treason. There is probably not a Presidential campaign in the history of the United States that wouldn’t meet with someone whom they were told had devastating information about the opposing candidate. I’m really worried about Painter. This anti-Trump brain virus is virulent.
When I read about the story and saw Richard embarrassing himself, I immediately thought, “I bet Professor Turley is flipping out over this.” Well, Turley is always infuriatingly reserved, but he has shown great integrity as someone nauseated by the President in slapping down these kinds of hysterical reports and analysis; he didn’t exactly flip out, but his reaction was as I thought it would be on his blog, Res Ipsa Loquitur:
I am afraid that I have to continue my record as something of a “buzz kill” on these stories. There is not a clear criminal act in such a meeting based on the information that we have. Moreover, it is not necessarily unprecedented….I tend to view these things through the lens of a criminal defense attorney and I do not see how either Trump Jr. or Natalia Veselnitskaya could be put into “custody” for such a meeting. There is no crime in listening to people who say that they have incriminating information on a political opponent, even a foreigner. Article III defines treason as “levying War against [the United States], or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” To say that this type of meeting even borders on treason is quite a departure from the language and cases governing that crime. Moreover, it is hardly shocking to see a willingness to gather dirt during that election..None of this excuses the slime machine that runs 24/7 in Washington. People in the beltway regularly traffic in dirt — it is the currency of our time. It has been for some time. Indeed, the Federalists and Jeffersonians actively and openly sought scandalous material to use against each other…
Unless there is more (and this is worthy of investigation), I see nothing close to treason or a crime in this account. That obviously does not fit with the breathless accounts given the story but the criminal code is not a code of political etiquette.
Whew! Thank you, Professor; I was watching and reading about this as stern faced “resistance”-trained talking heads made it sound as if they had discovered that Trump had been brainwashed by KGB hold-overs and was the Siberian Candidate, and thinking, “What’s wrong with me? I don’t see anything here!”
There isn’t anything here. But then CNN and the rest don’t need anything to bombard the public with suspicion- and distrust-seeding news stories designed to undermine the President. All they need is for the Anti-Trump Brain Virus to spread, with well-meaning victims like Richard Painter to spread it.
Facts: Res Ipsa Loquitur