Putting his father’s presidency in jeopardy, Donald Trump, Jr. has opened a door that can’t be shut. I still think President Trump will resign by the end of this year (see my post of May 18) and for the same reason.
He doesn’t want the American people to know about his business dealings with Russia. He now knows, or at least should know, that Independent Counsel Robert Mueller will investigate those transactions. How will we get from here to there? There is no sure way to predict, but that’s what makes prediction fun.
There is no crime called “collusion.” What is thought of as collusion would be covered under specific statues in the United States Code if Trump or someone in his campaign worked with the Russians to manipulate the results of the 2016 presidential election. Meeting with someone who claims to have dirt on the opposing political candidate is not a crime unless you offer something in return.
By that standard, it was not illegal for Trump, Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner, and then campaign manager Paul Manafort to meet with the Russian lawyer (with the name nobody can spell or pronounce), even if they hoped to find out information damaging to Hillary Clinton.
It was dumb, looks bad and can be used a proof of motive to violate any law for which evidence may eventually may be found. Right now, though, there’s no crime. That will change if it turns out that there is evidence that a specific criminal statute was violated at the meeting, but until then Trump, Jr.’s in the clear.
Agreeing to lift the Russian sanctions in exchange for their help to elect Trump would be criminal, and that’s the most likely scenario if Mueller issues any indictments. What if there are no indictments because of cooperation between the Russians and the Trump campaign? That is a very real possibility for two reasons.
It may well be that there was no collaboration at all or that the Russians duped the Trump people into unknowingly helping the Russians affect the presidential election results. There’s good reason to doubt there was an arrangement between the two camps because the Russians know better than to trust Donald Trump. It’s more likely that they suckered the Trump folks into helping them influence the election. Neither would be a crime.
As I was writing this post, news broke that Trump, Jr. failed to initially disclose that there were two other people at the June 9, 2016 meeting. One was Rinat Akhmetshin who is thought to be a Russian intelligence operative by national security, and who Sen. Charles Grassley thinks has engaged in “political disinformation campaigns.”
Again, that new information doesn’t translate into criminal behavior, but it’s telling that Trump, Jr. deliberately did not mention Akhmetshin’s presence at the meeting. It also gives Mueller even more reason to probe all the details of any contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians.
What will really matter is scrutiny of Trump’s business dealings with Russians, and, given what’s become known in the last week, Mueller will have to investigate everything and everyone Trump’s ever been involved with regarding Russia.
Something will be discovered that will make Americans ask themselves a question. If Trump has to make a decision that either benefits America or his wallet, do I trust him to make the right decision? When we reach that point, Trump will be forced to resign.