IS COLLUSION EVEN A CRIME, AND WHAT THE HECK IS THE LOGAN ACT?
The meetings that took placed between members of the Trump campaign and Russian agents during the 2016 presidential election, for the purpose of providing material assistance to sway the election, are evidence of obvious collusion.
The Trump legal staff is attempting to convince America that “collusion” is not a crime, and while they may have a limited legal point, the cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia, the cover-up of those actions, and lying to the government, are definitely criminal actions.
The Justice Department might have tipped their hand to their approach to the criminality of collusion. Documents released in early April, 2018, in response to Paul Manafort asking that charges against him be dismissed, show that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said specifically Mueller had the authority to investigate allegations that Manafort “committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election for President of the United States, in violation of United States law.” (The New Yorker)
Politico states that “collusion is not a federal crime (except in the unique case of antitrust law), so we should all just stop using “collusion” as a short-hand for criminality.” But they assert that the cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia may have violated many criminal prohibitions.
The cover-up of the collusion can involve violations of election laws, computer hacking, false statements, and wire fraud.
If Trump Jr. was seeking “dirt” on Hillary Clinton from the Russians, he could be charged with conspiring to violate the election laws of the U.S. If the campaign helped or advised the Russians about what to steal from Clinton or the Democrats, or how to best maximize the impact of their release, that could be a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
John Dean, Richard Nixon’s White House counsel:
“Collusion is the descriptive word the news media has settled on to cover many potential illegal actions by the Trump campaign, which could range from aiding and abetting (18 USC 2) to conspiracy per se (18 USC 371) to conspiring to violate several potentially applicable laws like: 18 USC 1030– fraud and related activity in connection with computers; 18 USC 1343– wire fraud; or 52 USC 30121– contributions and donations by foreign nationals.
Also, 18 USC 2381– for, contrary to a widespread belief that there must be a declared war, the Justice Department as recently as 2006 indicted for “aid and comfort” to our enemies, the form of collusion better known as treason. Collusion is the perfect word to cover such crimes, pejorative and inclusive.” (Politico)
John Dean served a four-month sentence for his role in Watergate.
Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor who specialized in obstruction cases:
“Collusion… has no specific legal meaning. What matters legally is whether someone in the Trump campaign joined a conspiracy, aided and abetted a crime, or actively concealed a crime…A conspiracy is just a legal term for an agreement to commit a crime. You aid and abet a crime if you know about criminal activity and actively try to make it succeed. There is also a crime called “misprision of felony” that means you know that a felony has been committed and you actively work to conceal the crime.”
California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said, “If this were a trial…the charge would be conspiracy. All of that evidence [Papadopoulos, the Trump Tower meeting, etc.] would come in as evidence of collusion.” (U.S. News & World Report)
A Timeline of Collusion — the broad strokes only
At least nine Trump associates had contacts with Russian government officials or business people during the campaign and presidential transition. (Politifact)
In January, 2016, Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime lawyer and “fixer,” emails Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. (Poltifact)
On March 24, 2016, George Papadopoulos, adviser to the Trump campaign, meets in London with a professor who claims to have connections to Russian government officials. The professor introduces him to a female Russian national who Papadopoulos believes to be a relative of Putin with links to other senior Russian officials. (Politifact)
Papadopoulos later lied to the FBI about his contacts with Russians.
On June 3, 2016, Rob Goldstone emails Donald Trump Jr., “The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillaryand her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father…this is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and it’s government’s support for Mr. Trump…” (Washington Post)
Donald Trump Jr. met with the Russians in the infamous Trump Tower meeting on June 9, 2016, along with Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Rob Goldstone, under the cover of discussing “adoptions of Russian Children,” but in reality — according to a July 8, 2016 tweet by Trump Jr., it was to receive damaging information on Hillary Clinton. The meeting was arranged by Goldstone.
On June 20, 2015, Christopher Steele, working for Fusion GPS, puts together the first of 17 reports that will become part of the famous Steele Dossier, alleging contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian actors.
The first report cites conversations that began as early as 2011 suggesting that Russia actively sought to compromise Trump, and included the alleged events at the Moscow hotel in 2013 (Trump staying in the presidential suite because he hated Obama so much, and the salacious “golden showers” with hookers incident). (Washington Post)
In early July 2016, Carter Page, Trump campaign adviser, travels to Moscow where he meets with Russia’s deputy prime minister and a high-ranking Russian oil official. Page emails staffers that the deputy prime minister “expressed strong support for Mr. Trump,” and that he had obtained “incredible insights and outreach” in Russia. (Politifact)
Carter Page sends a memo to staff on July 8, 2016 stating that he met with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkadiy Dvorkovich, and that Dvorkovich had expressed “strong support for Mr. Trump and a desire to work together toward devising better solutions in response to the vast range of current international problems.” (Washington Post)
July 18, 2016, Jeff Sessions and Ambassador Kislyak have a brief conversation at an event hosted by the Heritage Foundation as part of the RNC, which he later lied about, under oath, during Senate confirmation hearings.
July 19, 2016, Steele files a report that Carter Page’s trip to Moscow included meetings with the chief executive of the Russian oil company Rosneft, and Kremlin official Igor Diveykin, who at one point mentioned being in possession of compromising material on Clinton. (Washington Post)
July 27, 2016, Trump asks Russia to release the emails hacked from Clinton’s server.
July 31, 2016, the FBI begins investigating possible links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. (Washington Post)
New reports now indicate that Donald Trump Jr. also hosted a Trump Tower meeting on August 3, 2016 with Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates agents. In attendance were Erik Prince, Trump booster, brother of controversial Education Secretary Betsy Devos, and founder of the notorious private security firm Blackwater; George Nader, business executive and emissary for the princes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates; and Joel Zamel, Israeli expert in social media manipulation. (NY Times, Vox)
According to Mark Mazzetti, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist with the New York Times, Ronen Bergman, Israeli investigative journalist, and David Kirkpatrick, technology journalist and author, Nader told Trump Jr. that the Saudi Arabian and UAE princes were “eager” to help Trump win the election.
Zamel’s company, Psy-Group, had a proposal for an online manipulation program to help Trump win using thousands of fake accounts to promote him on Facebook.
It is not clear if the proposal was executed, but Trump Jr. “responded approvingly” and Nader subsequently became a regular in the Trump campaign, often meeting with Kushner, Michael Flynn, and Steve Bannon. (NY Times)
After the election, Nader, whose name has come up multiple times in context with Mueller’s investigation, paid Zamel as much as $2 million. (Vox)
Since becoming President, Trump has allied himself very closely with Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. His first overseas trip was to Riyadh, and he as backed efforts by the Saudis and the Emirates to isolate American ally Qatar.
September 8, 2016, Jeff Sessions meets privately, for a second time, with Kislyak in his Senate office. He later lies about this meeting as well in Senate confirmation hearings.
Sometime in September of 2016, congressional leaders were briefed about the CIA’s belief that Russia was intervening in the election to benefit Trump.
During this time, the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company was engaging in online influence operations, is spending $1.25 million a month on interfering with the election. (Washington Post)
October 11, 2016, Donald Trump Jr. travels to Paris to give a paid speech to a group that supports Russian interests. One of the hosts travels to Moscow, immediately after, to talk about the speech with a senior Russian official. (Washington Post)
October 18, 2016, Steele files a report that suggests Carter Page’s discussions with Rosneft in July resulted in an exchange of a stake in the company for lifting the sanctions against Russia. (Washington Post) This is strong evidence of quid pro quo between Trump officials and the Russian government..
During the transition, in December 2016, Flynn and Kushner met with Ambassador Kislyak at the Trump Tower, in which Kushner proposes setting up a back channel of communication between the administration and Putin, using the secure communications systems at the Russian embassy.
The FBI believes that the conversation may also have included an offer by the Russians that easing sanctions would allow Russian banks to offer financing to Trump associates. (Washington Post)
December 8, 2016, Carter Page travels to meet with business leaders and “thought leaders,” in Moscow.
On December 13, 2016, at Kislyak’s insistence, Kushner meets with Sergey Gorkov, chairman of Vnesheconombank and Putin confidant. (Washington Post) Vnesheconombank is a Russian government owned bank that has been under U.S. sanctions since 2014.
Kushner never mentioned this meeting in his security check. (Vox)
Contact with the Russians continued once Trump took office, including a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office. During that meeting, that no U.S. media was allowed to attend and the only photographs of it were provided by Russian news agencies, Trump revealed highly classified information that jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State. (Washington Post)
These are the broad contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians that the press and the public know about. Given Trump’s penchant for deception, subterfuge, outright lying, and his history of skirting the law in his businesses, see TRUMP: He Is Who He Appears To Be, Part Three, it is reasonable to assume that there are other contacts with the Russians (and other governments) that may be revealed by the Mueller investigation.
Federal Law (1 Stat. 613, 18 U.S.C. §953) aka The Logan Act
This law specifically calls for fine or imprisonment of private citizens who attempt to intervene without authorizations in disputes or controversies between the United States and foreign governments. It prohibits citizens from negotiating with other nations on behalf of the United States without authorization. It was enacted in 1799, and last amended in 1994.
The body of the law is as follows:
“Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”
In plain English, this means that no private citizen can try to conduct foreign policy without the permission of the U.S. government, and, more specifically, that person is not allowed to talk with a foreign government or its representative and try to influence policy directly or indirectly.
In the first Trump Tower meeting, Paul Manafort was in attendance. Manafort has been indicted for charges arising from his “consulting” work with the pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine, as well as conspiracy against the United States, money laundering, failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, being an unregistered agent of foreign principles, among other charges.
During the time that Manafort was accepting millions of dollars in cash for representing Russian interests in the Ukraine, the GOP changed the language in its official position on the conflict in Ukraine, removing anti-Russian wording.
Manafort would appear to be a direct violation of the law stated above, specifically prohibiting “citizens from negotiating with other nations on behalf of the United States without authorization.”
This is a member of the Trump campaign, specifically his campaign manager, negotiating with a foreign government, without permission, to obtain a more favorable position with regards to Russia’s involvement with the Ukraine, and the potential relationship that follows the election.
Manafort is facing charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent, money-laundering conspiracy, and two false-statement charges related to information he shared with the Justice Department about his work for the Ukrainians, and additional charges in Virginia on tax evasion and bank fraud. (CBS News)
In February of 2017, U.S. media reported that Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security advisor, had discussed the potential lifting of Obama sanctions against Russia, with the Russian Ambassador, Sergei Kislyak, before Trump took office. This would be illegal, since private citizens cannot conduct U.S. diplomacy.
Flynn, in his testimony admitting that he lied to FBI investigators about his communications with the Russians, also implicated “a very senior member” of the Trump transition team that almost certainly violated the Logan Act, too. The possibilities of the “very senior member” include Jared Kushner, Mike Pence, and Trump himself. (NY Times)
Two former officials with the transition team who worked closely with Flynn said that during the last days of the Obama administration, Flynn was instructed by Kushner to contact foreign ambassadors and ministers on the U.N. Security Council and get them to delay their vote condemning Israeli settlements until after Trump took office, or ditch it altogether. (Bloomberg)
Michael Flynn pled guilty to charges brought by special counsel Mueller of “willfully and knowingly” making “false, fictitious and fraudulent statements” to the FBI regarding conversations with the Russian ambassador. (CNN)
In exchange for the plea to lesser charges, he agreed to “cooperate fully, truthfully, completely, and forthrightly with this Office and other Federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities identified by this Office in any and all matters as to which this Office deems the cooperation relevant. (U.S. Department of Justice, The Special Counsel’s Office)
Collusion and The Logan Act work closely together to establish conspiracy. Just speaking to the Russians, or any other nation, by itself is not necessarily a crime.
Colluding with the Russians for the purposes of:
*Arranging a real estate deal by leveraging the possibility of a Trump presidency
*Obtaining dirt on a political opponent
*Coordinating the release of damaging emails of an opponent and opposing political party during an election
*Encouraging Russia to hack a political opponent’s email server and release them publicly
*Meeting with the Russians in the Oval Office without U.S. media present
*Lying to Congress and the FBI about any or all of these actions
are all actions that take collusion to the level of conspiracy.
Violating the Logan Act by:
*Having conversations with Russian agents about lifting Obama administration sanctions against Russia
*Taking ownership in a Russian oil company in exchange for favorable consideration
*Failing to register as a foreign agent then representing the possible future president in negotiations with foreign entities
*Having communication with the Russians that results in the GOP removing its anti-Russian language with respect to the conflict in Ukraine
*Attempting to influence a United Nations vote ahead of the presidential transition
all demonstrate a deliberate attempt to negotiate policy and action with foreign nations without U.S. permission, as well as contributing to a strong case for conspiracy.
And again, these are only the pieces of evidence that the media, and the public, has been exposed to.