When the “Russia collusion” scam failed so miserably as a means to take down this administration, liberal politicians and their media cronies got creative, coming up with ever more strained legal theories to justify their harassment of President Trump. The latest iteration is their effort to twist campaign finance laws to fit new, imagined crimes.
A prime example of this wishful thinking is the attack on Donald Trump, Jr. over the infamous “Trump Tower Meeting.” Recall that a British publicist emailed Don Jr. in 2016, saying he would be meeting with some Russian citizens, and that Russian prosecutors possibly had “information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia.”
“If it's what you say I love it,” Don Jr. replied. The meeting took place and despite the tease, no incriminating information about Hillary Clinton was offered.
“That’s illegal! That’s a crime!” the left has been shrieking for nearly two years since Don Jr. voluntarily released the emails about the meeting for the world to see. That Robert Mueller looked at these facts and declined to prosecute, has done nothing to dampen the left’s rabid fervor.
Despite the shrill rhetoric, no one has yet to cite a precedent establishing that it is illegal to merely say you’d be interested in damaging information about a political opponent, whatever the source. Certainly no one has ever been convicted for what is a routine campaign activity. Indeed, many political veterans across the political spectrum would tell you that it would be political malpractice to turn away potentially useful opposition research.
So why do these universally liberal “experts” think there’s a crime here? Their theory is predicated upon federal election law prohibiting the solicitation of “contributions,” defined as “things of value,” from foreigners. The theory goes that “dirt” on opponents, because it is helpful to campaigns and might be paid for as opposition research, is a “thing of value,” and therefore it would be a crime to solicit or receive such information from foreigners.
The problem with that theory is that it has no basis in law or fact.
As eminent law professor Eugene Volokh pointed out, this theory is not only a stretch in terms of the language of the statute, it also has no logical stopping point. If mere information that hurts or helps a candidate is really a “campaign contribution,” then virtually anyone discussing any election-related issue with a foreign national is a criminal.
Journalists who take a tip from overseas? Criminals. Campaigns that use the stories from illegal aliens? Criminals. All a prosecutor would have to do is show that the words were spoken “for the purpose of influencing [an] election for Federal office” to send the listener to Club Fed.
This is not the law. If it were the law, then desperate Democrats seeking to capitalize on Russia fever for their own fundraising and re-election purposes would also be in deep trouble. Adam Schiff comes to mind – he was caught on tape by two Russian pranksters promising nude Donald Trump photos. What about the infamous Steele Dossier that Democrats purchased from Fusion GPS and which was laden with information obtained from foreign sources? Might that be a crime?
Even if, by some misguided impulse, Congress were to pass a law criminalizing conversations with foreign nationals that might lead to helpful information, or the FEC were to adopt such an interpretation of existing law, it would conflict with the First Amendment, due process, and potentially other Constitutional norms.
Politically savvy liberals would be well served to drop this tortured campaign finance theory and move on, just as Robert Mueller’s frustrated prosecutors did after determining they couldn’t prove that “the value of the promised information exceeded the threshold for a criminal violation.” But Democrats and the mainstream media are doing nothing of the sort, instead promulgating the defamation that Don Jr. was in fact guilty of this imaginary crime, but avoided prosecution because he was “too stupid” to understand it was illegal.
Far from stupid, Don Jr. obviously has a much better grasp of the law than the army of misguided reporters and clueless journalists who are clumsily attempting to concoct a fictitious crime to try to destroy him. No doubt, once they realize that their campaign finance effort has reached a dead end, the same liberals will pivot to the creation of other fake crimes to continue their efforts to frame the President and those close to him. And in so doing, they continue to make a mockery of our laws.
Justice is meant to be blind, not distorted and weaponized to achieve partisan political goals.
Harmeet K. Dhillon is a nationally recognized lawyer focusing on commercial litigation, employment law, First Amendment rights, and election law matters. She is the Vice President of the Republican National Lawyers Association.