Advocacy Groups Accuse Trump Camp Of Violating Law In Russian Meeting

AP

Three advocacy groups on Thursday accused Donald Trump’s presidential campaign — in addition to everyone known to be in attendance at a meeting with a Russian lawyer who had promised dirt on Hillary Clinton in June 2016 — of violating election law.

Democracy 21, Common Cause and the Campaign Legal Center, and the vice president and policy director at the latter two groups, respectively, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission formally accusing Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner of soliciting a contribution from a foreign national by attending the meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016. PBS Newshour first reported the complaint.

“Under federal law, providing anything of value, including the fruits of paid research, hacking, or similar investigatory activity to a campaign is an in-kind ‘contribution,’” the complaint noted, “and expressing approval and requesting a meeting to receive that in-kind contribution is a ‘solicitation.’

Federal law prohibits such contributions, or solicitation thereof, from foreign nationals.

According to emails released by Trump Jr. just before the New York Times published its own report on the messages, a family acquaintance of Trump’s, Rob Goldstone, had promised that Veselnitskaya would provide dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to aide Donald Trump’s campaign.

The complaint accuses Goldstone of providing “substantial assistance” in soliciting the foreign donation.

The complaint also points to an interview Trump Jr. gave to Fox News’ Sean Hannity in which Trump Jr. affirmed that he pressed Veselnitskaya for the Clinton dirt, after realizing in the meeting that it was unlikely she would provide much useful information.

“[Veselnitskaya] is saying that she had no information to provide,” Hannity told Trump Jr. “Do you remember what she suggested, that you were pressing her a little bit for information?”

“Well, I imagine I did. I mean, I was probably pressing because the pretext of the meeting was, hey, I have information about your opponent,” Trump Jr. replied.

President Trump defended his son again on Thursday, calling the meeting with a foreign national promising dirt on a political opponent as part of a foreign government’s influence campaign “very standard.”

The advocacy groups’ complaint echoes that of Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), who on Tuesday similarly accused the Trump campaign of violating the law.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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