One misleading New York Times story. For the Left and their media allies, that’s all it takes for Donald Trump Jr. to become Public Enemy No. 1.
The headlines have ranged from the wildly inaccurate (“Trump Jr. Meeting Broke Campaign Finance Laws”) to the downright insane (“Trump Jr.’s Action Meet a Standard for Treason.”) One New Republic writer even claimed “the biggest political scandal since Watergate is busting wide open thanks to the overwhelming power of pure stupidity.”
A dose of reality is in order. No, Trump Jr.’s meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya—a Russian lawyer linked to the Kremlin—did not break any campaign finance laws. Not a single one. And it was certainly no act of treason. The radical Left is so intent on undermining President Trump’s agenda that they throw around terms like “treason” with no sense of their meaning. Of course, if Chelsea Clinton took the same meeting to find compromising information about a Republican, the liberal media would sing praises about her political acumen.
Alas, basic facts have been replaced by political spin and left-wing fearmongering. The alleged conversation took place because Veselnitskaya, a foreign attorney specially admitted to the country by the Obama Justice Department, purportedly promised to explain how Russians were funding the Democratic National Committee and assisting Hillary Clinton. According to even The New York Times, she never shared those details with Trump Jr. But his willingness to even discuss them has lit the Left on fire.
Three liberal so-called “advocacy” groups—the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, and Democracy 21—have now filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) accusing Trump Jr. of illegally coordinating with Russia during the 2016 campaign. The complaint claims he broke campaign finance law for “soliciting contributions from foreign nationals.”
This is demonstrably false on several fronts. First, the facts conveyed in Trump Jr.’s meeting with Veselnitskaya do not constitute a “contribution” because they do not qualify as a “gift.” Information conveyed in a political conversation would not ordinarily be considered a “gift,” so why apply it in this case? In a statutory sense, a “contribution” requires a change in the legal relations or liabilities of the person who allegedly conferred it. Trump Jr.’s legal relations and liabilities did not change simply by having a political conversation. And under common law, the term “gift” has a well-established meaning and does not include facts conveyed in a political discussion. The Left loves to invent new meanings for words, but the law here is clear, and the Left is clearly wrong on it.
Moreover, the useless gossip supposedly sought from Veselnitskaya cannot be an illegal “contribution” because they do not qualify as something “of value.” For something to be deemed “of value” under campaign finance law, a person must ordinarily charge for providing it—a fact not even the Left is alleging because there isn’t a shred of evidence it happened.
In fact, it would be unconstitutional for the FEC to interpret federal law so broadly as to prohibit Trump Jr. from freely engaging in conversations about any presidential candidate with any individual—including a non-citizen. Such a broad interpretation would effectively allow the federal government to punish Americans for engaging in pure political speech. This, of course, comes into direct conflict with the First Amendment and the democratic principles upon which our country is built.
For these reasons, the Committee to Defend the President (CDP) is stepping in. On Thursday, we will submit a legal brief to the FEC in defense of Trump Jr., arguing the meeting constituted neither a “contribution of value” nor grounds to infringe upon his—or any American’s—First Amendment rights. As the brief states, the FEC should dismiss this frivolous, self-serving complaint altogether because Trump Jr. “did not solicit, accept, or receive a ‘contribution’ or ‘donation.’”
Besieged by a radical Left and their enablers in the media, our private citizens and the Constitution have become the victims of a political vendetta. Only if we defend them can America truly be great again.
Ted Harvey is chairman of the Committee to Defend the President.