Here's What Would Go Down If Trump Jr. Got Indicted Over That Russia Meeting
On CNN on Monday, a Democratic congressman controversially claimed that he believes that President Trump's son and son-in-law will be indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller. Representative Steve Cohen's interview likely left many viewers wondering whether Donald Trump Jr. could actually be indicted. Of course, only the special counsel's team truly knows whether Trump Jr.'s indictment is a legitimate possibility. However, some legal experts think it's not completely out of the question.
Trump Jr. has been under scrutiny for organizing a June 2016 meeting between Russian business professionals with supposedly incriminating information about Hillary Clinton. Trump Jr. has acknowledged having the meeting. However, he has denied his father knew about the meeting in advance.
The Hill reported that, in his CNN interview on Monday, Congressman Cohen asserted that he believed Trump Jr. and the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, would be indicted due to issues related to the Trump campaign and Russia. However, he did not offer evidence to support those claims. Cohen shared his sentiments with host Wolf Blitzer, saying,
I think they’re getting closer to knowing that the truth is going to come out that there was activities with the Trump campaign and Russia in releasing those hacks and guiding them to the states and the localities where they came from ... Some of that was Jared Kushner’s responsibilities, some of it was Donald [Trump] Jr. I think you’re probably going to see indictments of both of those people.
In an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity in July 2017, Trump Jr. pointedly told the host that his father never knew about the meeting, saying,
No. It was such a nothing. There was nothing to tell. I wouldn't have even remembered it until you start scouring through the stuff. It was literally just a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame.
For his part, the president has also denied knowing about the meeting. He tweeted on Friday, "I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr [sic] ... Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam.”
However, according to CNN, recently, Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen claimed that President Trump did know about the meeting in advance. As Yahoo! reported, if Cohen's claims are true — and Mueller finds that Trump Jr. did not tell the truth about whether his father knew about the meeting — the president's son could be indicted on charges of lying to Congress. As the outlet noted, Trump Jr. testified under oath to Congress that his father had not known about the meeting.
If Mueller hypothetically did indict Trump Jr., the U.S. Department of Justice would likely file charges via the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, as it has with past special counsel indictments. Following an indictment, defendants typically go through a trial to establish guilt or innocence. In some cases, they can make a plea deal and avoid trial, though possibly face a prison sentence.
Some legal experts think it is possible that Trump Jr. and Kushner could be indicted if Mueller finds that President Trump knew about the meeting with the Russian officials in advance. As Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor, told Newsweek, if the two men are found to be lying, "They would have been giving false information, so they would be subject to obstruction of justice or false statement charges." However, of course, thus far there have only been claims that President Trump knew about the meeting, not any concrete evidence.
Overall, it is possible that Trump Jr. could be indicted in the Mueller investigation. However, at this point, it seems equally possible that he could not be indicted. As Mueller's investigation moves forward, Americans will likely receive more clarity on the actions — or lack thereof — taken by members of the Trump campaign and administration.