One Bush Ethics Expert Says Donald Trump Jr.'s Meeting Might Be Treason

by Joseph D. Lyons
Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Reports are pointing to a link between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives. The New York Times reported that Donald Trump Jr. met with a lawyer with ties to the Kremlin in June, allegedly to receive damaging information about Hillary Clinton, when it became increasingly clear she would be the Democratic nominee for president and would face off against his father. Also present were Jared Kushner and campaign chairman Paul Manafort. No matter how you dice it, this is not good news. But was Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer treason?

At least one expert from the Bush White House says it could be. Richard Painter, a former chief ethics lawyer under George W. Bush, says that it "borders on treason." He explained the gravity of the situation in on MSNBC Sunday:

This was an effort to get opposition research on an opponent in an American political campaign from the Russians, who were known to be engaged in spying inside the United States. We do not get our opposition research from spies, we do not collaborate with Russian spies, unless we want to be accused of treason.

Trump Jr. has not denied the meeting took place, but he has explained to the media his version of events. "After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton,” he said in a statement to the New York Times.

“Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information," Trump Jr. further explained, contradicting his statement from the day before when he said the meeting was entirely about adoptions between the United States and Russia.

“It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting," he went on, essentially admitting that he had initially met with the lawyer under those pretexts, whether or not the meetings led to any exchange of information.

"If this story is true, we’d have one of them if not both of them in custody by now, and we’d be asking them a lot of questions,” he said. “This is unacceptable. This borders on treason, if it is not itself treason.”