President Donald Trump has defended his son's decision to meet with a Russian lawyer on the promise of compromising information about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asserting that anyone in a campaign would be interested in opposition research against their opponent. Meanwhile, some experts have accused the Trump scion of violating federal law.
On July 13, Trump said that he did not believe his son, Donald Trump Jr., had done anything wrong, CNBC reports.
"I think from a practical standpoint most people would have taken that meeting," Trump said during a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron. "It's called opposition research."
The president added "Politics is not the nicest business in the world, but it's very standard where they have the information and you take the information."
On June 9, 2016, Trump Jr. met with Russian lawyer and lobbyist Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower, Manhattan. The meeting was arranged by entertainment publicist Rob Goldstone, who promised Trump Jr. that Veselnitskaya could provide damaging information about Clinton, The New York Times reports.
"This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump," Goldstone wrote in an email.
"If it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer," Trump Jr. responded.
On July 11, Trump Jr. published his email chain with Goldstone on Twitter after he was informed that the Times had obtained a copy of their conversation.
Several legal experts have asserted that Trump Jr.'s email exchange with Goldstone and subsequent meeting with Veselnitskaya violated the federal law 52 USC 30121, 36 USC 510, which states "A foreign national shall not, directly or indirectly, make a contribution or a donation of money or other thing of value, or expressly or impliedly promise to make a contribution or a donation, in connection with any Federal, State, or local election."
The law also prevents any campaign from accepting such solicitations.
"So getting opposition research or dirt on Hillary Clinton, or however they tried to portray it, would constitute a contribution both on the definition of a contribution and on the foreign-national contribution ban," Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center told Business Insider.
"Trump Jr. knew that the information was coming from Russia. He knew he'd be getting something of value from the Russian government."
Trump Jr. has maintained that Veselnitskaya proved to not have any compromising information on Clinton. Common Cause vice president Paul S. Ryan has asserted that this would not absolve him of any wrongdoing.
"Whether or not he actually received any information, which he insists he did not, the solicitation of the meeting violates this statute," Ryan said.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina blasted Trump Jr. for agreeing to the meeting, deeming his email exchange with Goldstone "disturbing."
"Okay, so any time you're in a campaign and you get an offer from a foreign government to help your campaign, the answer is no," Graham said, according to the Washington Examiner.
The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that the Russian government mounted an influence campaign during the 2016 presidential election and stole data from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign. The Justice Department is investigating whether members of the Trump campaign had colluded with Russian officials.
On July 13, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, submitted a letter to Trump Jr. requesting that he testify in their Russia probe, CNN reports.