On May 16, 2018, Donald Trump Jr. testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that his father, then-candidate Donald Trump, had no foreknowledge of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting Junior held with other Trump presidential campaign officials and several Kremlin-connected operatives.
Team Trump initially claimed the meeting was about “adoptions.” This was later retracted after details emerged about why Junior had agreed to meet with the Russians.
“No, I did not,” Junior responded when asked if he had informed his father of the meeting or of the offer he received from the Russians – dirt on Hillary Clinton – prior to the meeting. Trump and Junior have both denied that the president knew about the meeting.
The president tweeted on Sunday an admission to his campaign colluding with Russians to obtain damaging material on Clinton, though he continued to deny personal knowledge of the meeting.
This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!
On Monday, ABC News chief legal analyst Dan Abrams warned that Trump’s tweet could preview legal trouble for Junior. Abrams suggested Trump’s ongoing denial of the meeting was a strategic maneuver concocted to protect his son from being busted for lying to the Senate.
“He has to stick to that part because if he says he knew about the meeting, that almost certainly means Donald Jr. lied in front of Congress, and I think that that would almost certainly mean that Donald Jr. would get indicted,” Abrams said.
He added: “I think gotta be his number one concern. We can talk about all these questions of campaign finance law and possible defrauding of the United States. The number one concern of his right now has to be that statement to Congress from Don Jr. that Donald Trump didn’t know about the meeting.”
Lying to the Senate, whether under oath or not, is perjury and punishable with up to five years in prison.
Abrams hinted that Trump’s evolving story may be grounds for impeachment, citing a precedent set by Ken Starr during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in the 1990’s.
“Ken Starr, back with the Clinton investigation, determined that lying to the public could be in and of itself a ground for impeachment,” Abrams recalled.
Abrams also said that Trump’s Sunday tweet could be additional fodder for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign participated in a criminal conspiracy with Russia to rig the 2016 presidential election.
“And the other is a broader statute which Robert Mueller has been using in connection a number of the Russians that have been indicted, and that is, broadly, a conspiracy to defraud the United States,” Abrams said. “And that just means, in essence, a conspiracy to help affect the election in a fraudulent way.”