When Robert Mueller submitted the report that concluded his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, despite issuing 34 indictments over the 22 months of his Russia probe, per USA Today, the Special Counsel issued no new indictments — mysteriously letting a number of possible targets of the investigation off the hook.
One possible target was especially lucky to get away, and Mueller’s decision not to indict that person could pose a serious threat to the 2020 presidential election, opening the door to more Russian tampering or even collusion, according to University of California-Irvine law professor Richard L. Hasen.
The legal scholar published an op-ed in the online magazine Slate on Monday, exploring the mystery of why Mueller failed to indict Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and what Mueller’s failure to do so means for 2020.
Trump Jr., along with Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and the then-chair of his campaign Paul Manafort, met on June 9, 2016, in Trump Tower with a group of Kremlin-linked Russians who had offered information that would, they claimed, “incriminate” Trump’s general election opponent, Hillary Clinton, as The Inquisitr has covered. Before the meeting, when he received an email from a Russia-affiliated associate offering the information, Trump replied, “I love it.”
“It sure looked like at least Trump Jr. and perhaps others at that meeting committed a crime,” wrote Hasen.
“Federal law makes it a potential crime for any person to ‘solicit’ (that is, expressly or impliedly ask for) the contribution of ‘anything of value’ from a foreign citizen.”
Hasen, in an earlier Slate essay, explained that in previous such cases, the Federal Election Commission has said that “things of value” include polling data, opposition research — which was what the Russians were offering to Trump Jr. — or even anything of “subjective value to the recipient.”
“Despite this seemingly strong case, Mueller never indicted Trump Jr. or anyone else for federal campaign finance violations,” Hasen wrote, adding that the potential violations committed by Trump Jr. — and possibly Kushner and Manafort as well — were “much more serious” than the campaign finance violations involving the elder Trump’s payoff to adult film star Stormy Daniels, for which Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen has been sentenced to prison, as The Inquisitr has reported.
Why did Mueller take a pass on indicting Trump? With the Mueller report itself still secret, the answer remains mysterious. But Hasen believes that Mueller may have invoked a First Amendment reasoning saying that the alleged opposition research on Clinton, even though it was to be provided by a foreign entity, was constitutionally protected political speech.
But if Mueller used the First Amendment rationale, Hasen writes, “we need to know, because it means that Department of Justice officials will not see the need to stop foreign governments from sharing information—even information obtained from illegal hacking—with campaigns, for the purposes of influencing the 2020 elections.”
The 2020 elections would be wide open to foreign intervention if Mueller employed a First Amendment argument against indicting Trump Jr., and “even new congressional legislation could not stop it,” Hasen wrote.
“And that seems dangerous,” he concluded.