And it could very easily be blackmail.
As the details emerged about the meeting between a Russian lawyer representing the Russian government and top Trump campaign officials – including Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and Paul Manafort – a clear line has been drawn between the Russian government and efforts to influence the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump.
The Trump camp’s repeated denials that there was never a connection between the campaign and Russia are now very obviously misleading statements.
Here are three takeaways on the latest developments from the Trump/Russia scandal:
- Collusion is not a crime: While legal experts agree that collusion is not a crime for which Donald Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner could be charged, a growing consensus is that the more serious crime of conspiracy with a foreign agent to violate U.S. election laws could be at play. In fact collusion somehow sounds positive and collaborative; let’s just start calling it “alleged conspiracy with a foreign agent to violate U.S. election laws.”
- When Sally Yates approached White House Counsel Don McGahn about Michael Flynn’s dishonest responses to questions about his meetings with Russians, she very clearly indicated that when a U.S. government official is dishonest about an arrangement with a Russian official there is a very real possibility that the official could be blackmailed by Russian intelligence agents.While Manafort no longer serves in an official capacity, Jared Kushner is a federal employee and Donald Trump Jr. is a respected adviser to the president. Both Kushner and Trump Jr. could be blackmailed which has lead to calls for Kushner’s security clearance to be revoked.
- Because so many people were involved in the meeting last June at Trump Tower, it will be difficult for the “conspirators” to completely align their stories in the face of very experienced and dedicated investigators under the leadership of special prosecutor Robert Mueller. Seasoned investigators are very good at discerning how stories line up against the facts that they already know to be true and the stories that others tell.
So far everyone is holding the line indicating that then candidate Trump knew nothing of the meeting or its outcome. Previous Trump denials have proven not to be true – we’ll see about this one.