Norman Eisen and Richard Painter, former ethics lawyers for Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, blasted President Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. in a joint New York Times op-ed Tuesday after he admitted to meeting with Kremlin-linked attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, who offered “high-level, sensitive” campaign dirt on President Trump’s then-opponent Hillary Clinton.
“It raises a host of potential criminal and other legal violations for Donald Jr. and others involved, including his brother-in-law Jared Kushner; Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman at the time; and perhaps the president himself,” the two wrote.
“But,” the lawyers warned, Trump Jr.’s actions “should not be exaggerated: The investigation has much further to go before Donald Jr.’s liability, or that of others, can be finally assessed.”
“Although we do not yet have enough facts to judge, Donald Jr. and others may also be liable for conspiracy with respect to espionage, depending on how any illicit information was obtained and the level of their awareness of any spying,” they wrote.
The former ethics czars dismissed Trump Jr.’s explanation that the meeting was “nothing” as a “nonsense” excuse.
“The defense that this was a routine meeting to hear about opposition research is nonsense,” they wrote. “As ethics lawyers, we have worked on political campaigns for decades and have never heard of an offer like this one.”
“If we had, we would have insisted upon immediate notification of the F.B.I., and so would any normal campaign lawyer, official or even senior volunteer.”
They also said that the consequences for Trump Jr., his colleagues, and brother-in-law in the White House could be grave.
“The potential offenses committed by Donald Jr., his colleagues and brother-in-law who attended the meeting, and the campaign itself, include criminal or civil violations of campaign finance laws,” they wrote.
“The promised Russian ‘documents and information’ would have been an illegal campaign contribution from a foreign government — and a priceless one.”
The ethics lawyers concluded with this:
“It is now more critical than ever that the investigations by the special prosecutor and Congress be allowed to complete their course without White House or other interference,” they wrote.