Trump opponents cite the Trump tower meeting on June 9, 2016 between Trump people and Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya & her associates as proof of collusion. The attorney was working for a Russian billionaire, Aras Agalarov, whose US assets were frozen as a result of the Magintsky act, a US sanction to punish Russia for its human rights abuse. In return, Russia banned US adoption of Russian orphans. She has been lobbying Washington for couple of years to get rid of the sanction that was punishing her client and other wealthy Russians for acts committed by their government. The meeting was requested by Rob Goldstone, a colorful British born music promoter for the billionaire’s singer son. In an email to Donald Trump, Jr., whom he had met at US Pageant in Moscow. Goldstone promised dirt or incriminating information on Hillary Clinton. Trump, Jr. then invited Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort to attend the meeting. In addition to Goldstone, the Russian attorney came with two Russian American men- one a translator and the other an agent for the billionaire and a Clinton supporter. From all accounts (including testimony by some participants), the Russian attorney offered no incriminating info about Clinton. Instead she talked only about the need to rescind Magintsky act and resume US adoptions. The promise of “Dirt on Hillary” was obviously a ruse by the intermediaries to set up the meeting. The dirt they wanted to give was solely about why Clinton got that act passed in return for campaign contributions by a US company affiliated with opponents of Putin. At the recent Helsinki meeting, Putin did bring up these contributions. It is reported that Kushner was so bored by the subject that he texted his assistant to pull him out of the meeting with a phone call. Manafort sat through the entire meeting going through messages on his phone. According to the testimony of some of the attendees, the meeting was a ‘Nothing burger’ The Russian attorney’s entire pitch was about the damage the Magintsky act was doing to her client and the need to cancel it and resume US adoptions. She did not even bring up the missing emails of Clinton. Nor did she give any documentation about contributions to Clinton.
Was the meeting a collusion? Answer is no for the following reasons:
1. Natalia Veselnitskaya is a private attorney and not a Russian govt. official even though she has some clients who have close association with Russian govt.
2. The Russian attorney did not bring any incriminating documentation including the missing emails to the meeting.
3. If she was planning to bring dirt on Clinton, she would not come to the meeting with a colorful music promoter, a translator who has been working for a long time with US State dept.
as a contractor doing Russian translation and a Russian American, a long time US citizen and reportedly a Clinton supporter.
4. Even if she gave incriminating information including the 30,000 missing emails, it is not a crime if the Trump campaign accepted the same. According to Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law
professor and a known authority on US constitution, a political party has the same First amendment rights as the news media. If New York Times was offered the missing emails, it
would have grabbed them in a split second and no one would accuse them of a crime as per Prof. Dershowitz. Similarly, Trump campaign had a right to accept such information even
though none was offered.
Was the meeting a conspiracy? Answer is a NO and IMPOSSIBLE for a very simple reason- Timing.
Conspiracy is for anyone in the campaign to conspire with a foreign country, including Russia, to engage in an unlawful activity that can influence the outcome of the US presidential election. As per the indictment of Russian nationals by the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Russian meddling in the US election began when two Russians arrived in the US in March of 2014 to do scouting. The process of planning, budgeting, picking a team, obtaining US visas, etc. must have started several months earlier. This has to be some time after a political party in US stuck a deal with the Russian govt. on meddling in the election and helping them win. That means the conspiracy, if there was one, must have happened sometime in 2013. At that time, no one, including Trump, thought Donald Trump would be a candidate. Until 2015 there was no Trump candidacy, no Trump campaign. The only way the people meeting on June 9, 2016 in Trump Tower could have agreed on a conspiracy to meddle in US elections is by getting in to a Time Machine (back to the future!) and gone back to 2013. If you don’t believe that, there was no conspiracy between Trump campaign and the Russians.
What about Hypocrisy?
All this debate about criminality of collusion or conspiracy came about because many think that the Trump campaign broke federal election campaign laws. What exactly are these laws? As per Federal Election Campaign Act 52 USC 30121, it is unlawful for a foreign national to make, directly or indirectly, a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value to a political campaign. However, an individual who is a foreign national may participate in campaign activities as an uncompensated volunteer.
Keeping the above law in mind, please look at the following activities, as reported by the news media, that happened during the 2016 election:
1. Nevada Senate race: “Harry Reid and the Democrats brought in Mexican soap opera stars, singers and entertainers who had immense in those communities into Las Vegas, to entertain, get out the vote and so forth,” Texas congressman Mike Conaway complained to news media. “Those are foreign actors, foreign people, influencing the vote in Nevada. You don’t hear the Democrats screaming and saying one word about that.” At least some of these foreign entertainers got paid for their time and or expenses.
2. Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee hired Fusion GPS and paid thousands of dollars to do opposition research on Trump. Its key employee Christopher Steele, a British citizen, who openly expressed his hatred for Trump, used his Russian sources to come up with a 35-page dossier with salacious details that were never confirmed. Among other things, dossier alleged that there was a conspiracy between Trump campaign and Russians to defeat Clinton. It is obvious Steele, a foreign national, did not volunteer his services.
3. It has been reported widely that Christopher Steele, after completing his dossier, was hired by FBI to continue research on Trump. It has also been reported that FBI partly relied on his findings to start the Russia collusion investigation. Obviously, Steele did not work as a volunteer for FBI
As a non-attorney, I find it difficult to understand why all these government resources are being spent on a desperate mission to pin collusion charges on President Trump by trying to stretch election law violations that may not have happened while totally ignoring election law violations by others that are clearly obvious to even lay people. I have no choice but to call it sheer Hypocrisy.