Lying in wait amid The Atlantic‘s report on Twitter direct message exchanges between Donald Trump, Jr. and WikiLeaks is a legal point brought up over the summer: that the campaign’s coordination with foreign nationals could constitute a federal crime.
In a Just Security article published on July 10, the day prior to Trump Jr.’s publication of his email exchange claiming he “loves” the prospect of dirt on Hillary Clinton (something suggested to him, in part, by WikiLeaks), former White House Counsel Bob Bauer warned that any “coordination” between the Trump campaign and non-Americans is illegal.
“It is important to underscore here that this area of law applies to any and all coordinated spending beneficial to the campaign, not only to coordination with Russians, the Russian government, or other foreign nationals (think: Wikileaks),” Bauer wrote.
In the world of campaign finance law, “spending” doesn’t just describe monetary contributions. If a campaign accepts help from a foreign national, like a Russian operative, or WikiLeaks’ Australian founder Julian Assange, it’s an expenditure.
“Under the campaign finance laws, spending of all kinds to influence an election can be subject to a finding of coordination resulting in an illegal contribution,” Bauer continued.
The former White House counsel also noted that “under no circumstance may a candidate coordinate campaign spending, which includes any ‘thing of value’ to influence an election, with a foreign national.”
If Trump Jr. knowingly accepted “help,” as he appears to in these newly-released direct messages, he would have accepted a contribution from a foreign national — and would be guilty of a federal crime.