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If Trump Jr. Is Guilty, So Is Every Democrat Who Takes Information From ‘Dreamers’


The lawyers arguing for criminalizing Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a foreign national who wanted to volunteer information do not realize just who they would have criminalized — every exchange of information concerning a campaign involving any illegal immigrant in the country (“undocumented” immigrant in media-speak) or foreign national around the world.

If these Trump bashing lawyers were right, they have just allowed the mass indictment and incarceration of most politically active Dreamers, as well as all the political groups that solicit their campaign involvement, even if merely for information. This is just one of the absurdly extreme consequences of their novel theory that volunteering information to a campaign is a “campaign donation” under the law.

Let’s look at the “logic” employed by many of these lawyers blinded by their hatred of Trump (and they are often non-practicing lawyers with little practical experience in the relevant areas of law, yet held out as “experts” by a media that favors ideology over useful intel).

First, they claim any volunteering of information to a federal campaign by a foreign national is a crime. Second, they claim merely agreeing to meet with a foreign national promising to volunteer information to a federal campaign is a crime. Guess who they have just defined? Pretty much every politically active “dreamer” in the country, and their campaign allies, which is basically almost every Democratic campaign for federal office in 2016. In other words, these lawyers just made every Democratic member of Congress a criminal. 

Indeed, as fellow legal scholars point out, this would even criminalize inquiries or investigations where a non-green-card holder (all Dreamers, all undocumented immigrants, and those here on other kinds of visas) was solicited by a campaign for information, which happens millions of times in America every election year, and no one called it a crime until Donald Trump Jr. did it.

As practicing lawyer and professor Alan Dershowitz noted, this broad interpretation of “campaign contribution” would make the law unconstitutional. The First Amendment protects the free flow of information, and immunizes all US citizens involved in the gathering thereof. A law that makes it a crime for a US citizen to get volunteered information for a campaign would likely violate the First Amendment.

Ironically, many of the same lawyers claiming an imam’s foreign cousin from Iran has a First Amendment right to physically enter the country now claim Donald Trump Jr. has no First Amendment right to take a meeting for possible volunteered information from a foreign national. Americans do not lose their First Amendment rights just because they are talking to a foreigner. (Please remember that, NSA).

A second Constitutional provision would also likely invalidate a law written as the Trump hating lawyers would want. The Fifth Amendment prohibits criminal laws from being read so broadly that they criminalize conduct that occurs millions of times without prior prosecution. This is the “fair notice” component of due process, often referenced in tandem and in tango with the “void for vagueness” doctrine. 

If campaign cash donation law now includes the mere donation of information, millions would be suddenly ensnared in alleged criminal conduct. Just think of all the “information” sent to campaigns via social media, door knocking campaigns, public campaign events, direct mail, email, etc. Given the large number of foreign nationals living in the US, and the large number engaged in American campaigns around the world through social media, the scope of new “criminal conduct” would be enormous; the purpose of the Fifth Amendment is to prevent such extreme consequences. 

Whenever a law’s interpretation leads to such absurd outcomes, the law requires that interpretation be rejected. Such absurdity is the hallmark of the anti-Trump lawyers’ interpretation of campaign donation law.

Donald Trump Jr. does not have fewer First Amendment rights than dreamers, or other non-citizens. The law does not discriminate against Trump. Donald Trump Jr. is only guilty of not seeing the world through red-scare eyes. Donald Trump Jr. was, is, and remains innocent.

Robert Barnes is a California-based trial attorney whose practice focuses on Constitutional, criminal and civil rights law. You can follow him at @Barnes_Law.
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This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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