President Donald Trump on Monday logged onto his Twitter account to defend his son’s decision to meet with Russian nationals last summer during the presidential campaign.
Donald Trump Jr. met with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer who has ties to the Kremlin, under the promise of receiving information from her regarding damaging information about Hillary Clinton, Trump Sr.’s opponent who had won the Democratic Party’s nomination contests. Veselnitskaya was also joined by a former member of the Soviet intelligence community, as well as a Russian translator.
Donald Trump Jr. was joined in the meeting by Paul Manafort, who at the time was Trump Sr.’s campaign manager, as well as Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.
President Trump said on Monday that anybody seeking out information to help them in an election would have done exactly what Trump Jr. had done.
Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don jr attended in order to get info on an opponent. That's politics!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 17, 2017
“That’s politcs!” Trump explained. But several prominent campaigners — including Republican strategists — dispute that assumption.
Tim Miller, a GOP consultant who worked on Jeb Bush’s campaign for president, said on PBS’s News Hour that, when talking to someone about receiving “dirt” on your opponent, “you have to make a decision about whether this is a credible person. You have to talk to lawyers to make sure, if you have the conversation, it’s within legal bounds.”
And John Weaver, a former consultant for Ted Cruz, agrees. In an article appearing in Huff Post, Weaver states that a meeting between a foreign national like what went down with Trump Jr. has “never happened, never would happen for all kinds of reasons.”
Among those reasons is the question of legality. U.S. federal elections law forbids any candidate (or representatives from their campaign) from accepting or receiving anything of value from a foreign national, which Veselnitskaya is.
Trump suggests that his son’s actions aren’t anything people should be concerned about. But it’s possible that, in accepting an invitation from a foreign national to exchange information that could be helpful for his father’s campaign, Trump Jr. may have violated federal law. Most campaign consultants know better — contrary to what President Trump suggests in his tweet.