Fox News commentator Andrew Napolitano on Monday said that Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer was “a bumbling, foolish thing to do” and provides enough basis for a criminal investigation.
“The question is, is this enough to commence a criminal investigation? Answer, yes,” Napolitano said on Fox News. “Because it is suspicious that they met with these people, that they didn’t consult a lawyer, that one of these people was a former KGB, GRU, that’s the Russian intelligence arm, Russian military intelligence arm, and didn’t tell anybody about it.”
Trump Jr. published his emails arranging a meeting in June 2016 with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya after he was promised compromising information on Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s campaign.
Then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump Jr.’s brother-in-law Jared Kushner also attended the meeting, as did Rinat Akhmetshin, a registered lobbyist and former Soviet counterintelligence officer.
Napolitano’s aggressive stance toward investigating the meeting was at odds with his previous support for President Donald Trump’s outlandish claim that former President Barack Obama surveilled him at Trump Tower. In March, Napolitano claimed that Obama asked British intelligence service GCHQ to surveil Trump on his behalf, a claim White House press secretary Sean Spicer later cited from the podium as proof.
Napolitano on Monday questioned why Kushner initially omitted the meeting from his application for a security clearance (Kushner later amended the application three times and reportedly added more than 100 names to his list of foreign contacts).
“Why didn’t Jared Kushner tell the FBI about it when he filled out his FBI national security application unless he was trying to hide something?” he asked. “And if he was trying to hide something, was it that this was a bumbling, foolish thing to do or that this was the beginning of some steps in furtherance of acquiring this information?”
Napolitano said he would have advised Trump or his son to speak to White House counsel Don McGahn, who was general counsel to Trump’s campaign, about the meeting.
“He would have said, ‘You want to talk to an ex-KGB, GRU agent and a Russian person represented as a ‘Russian government lawyer,’ even though we now know she wasn’t, about research on Hillary? Tell the FBI! Don’t bring those guys in here,'” Napolitano said. (Trump has claimed he found out about the meeting recently and was not aware of it at the time.)
Napolitano said that an inquiry would be justified because “often these nonviolent criminal events don’t happen all at once, they happen in stages.”
“It is a crime to receive something of value when you are a campaign official from a foreign person or a foreign government,” he said, adding that if Trump Jr. received anything from the meeting, “That would have been a felony. That would have been the completion of a crime.”