The email chain released by the president’s son shows an intent to collude with Russia, veteran prosecutors and white-collar defense attorneys say.
Donald Trump Jr. may have just given Robert Mueller “smoking gun” evidence signaling his father’s presidential campaign colluded with the Russian government to win the 2016 election, according to veteran prosecutors and white-collar defense attorneys experienced in Washington scandals.
The president’s eldest son — in a surprise Tuesday tweet — shared what he said was a full email chain from June 2016 detailing his plans to set up a meeting with a Russian government lawyer who was willing to share damaging material about Hillary Clinton.
Two of Donald Trump’s most senior campaign advisers — Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort — are also included in the “private and confidential” email exchange, which the lawyers interviewed by POLITICO say exposes them to the same potential federal criminal statutes as Trump Jr., including prohibitions on the solicitation or acceptance of anything of value from a foreign national, as well as a conspiracy to defraud the United States.
The smoking gun, according to the attorneys, is the wording throughout the emails that Trump Jr. exchanges with a broker for one of his father’s former Russian business partners. At one point, Trump Jr. responds “love it” at the prospect of material that would “incriminate” Clinton. In addition, the source of the material says the offer of the material is “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
“Extremely damaging,” said former Justice Department prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg. “Certainly shows an intent to collude with Russian government.”
Samuel Buell, a former federal prosecutor who worked with one of Mueller’s top deputies prosecuting Enron executives in the early 2000s, wrote in an email that the email chain “is very significant legally as it at least opens up the question of illegal campaign benefits from Russian sources, and the email is quite strong evidence of DJT Jr’s intent toward Russia.”
Buell, now a law professor at Duke University, said the Trump Jr. email exchange also has significant political resonance. “Pressure on Congress is rising to refuse to go along with the idea that collusion is an imagined problem. We get told ‘nothing burger’ and we end up getting a Whopper,” he said, referring to White House chief of staff Reince Priebus’ insistence over the weekend that the original media reporting was a non-story.
Trump Jr., who has hired New York criminal defense attorney Alan Futerfas as his personal attorney for Russia-related matters, has denied any wrongdoing.