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Gregg Jarrett: Donald Trump Jr. did not violate campaign laws -- Pelosi and others are wrong

Gregg Jarrett

The law is common sense. Yet, it is created by lawmakers who seem to be lacking any sense at all.  Many of them do not understand their own laws.    

Nancy Pelosi recently proved this point. The House Minority Leader held a news conference, surrounded by like-minded Democrats, during which she declared that Donald Trump Jr. had broken campaign laws when he met with a Russian lawyer during last year’s presidential campaign to obtain negative information on the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.  Here is what Pelosi said:

“This is a campaign violation: soliciting, coordinating, or accepting something of value --opposition research, documents, and information—from a foreign national. Plain and simple.”       

In truth, it is plain and simple that Pelosi is wrong. And so are many others who have joined the chorus of condemnation based on laws they have surely never read. Allow me to help them out.   

The Federal Election Commission is the independent regulatory agency which enforces campaign laws enacted by Congress.  On its government website, the FEC makes it clear that it is perfectly lawful for foreign nationals to be involved in American political campaigns:    

“Even though a foreign national cannot make campaign contributions, he or she can serve as an uncompensated volunteer for a campaign or political party”.

The Commission goes on to explain that foreigners are “allowed to attend campaign strategy meetings and events”. They are allowed to contribute ideas, information, and even advice. They are allowed to open their mouths and speak.

None of this is considered to be a donation or “anything of value” under the campaign statutes, as some Democrats and many in the media allege.  To the contrary, the Commission specifically states, “an individual may volunteer his or her personal services to a campaign without making a campaign contribution”. 

The same language is found in both the Federal Election Campaign Act (52 USC 30101 8-B) and the Code of Federal Regulations (100.74):

“The value of services provided by any individual who volunteers on behalf of a candidate or political committee is not a contribution.”

Why are foreigners on American soil allowed to volunteer their services and provide information to political campaigns in U.S. elections? The reason should be obvious –the Constitution.      

The First Amendment gives Americans the freedom to associate with whomever they want, including Russians. It gives people the freedom to exchange ideas and information , even with Russians. As long as the information is neither stolen nor classified, there is no crime. There is no civil wrong.   

We do not criminalize free speech and free association in America.  Yet, there is this false mentality that all Russians are boogeymen.  And talking to them is somehow a crime.  It is not.  The founders of our Constitution would be mortified at that notion. 

One commentator recently said, “Donald Trump Jr. had an absolute duty to notify the FBI”. Why? Where is that law or duty written?  If it is not a crime to exchange information with a Russian, why should the FBI be notified? Why would FBI agents be interested in legal activity? Trust me, they are not. Even if a citizen learns of a crime, there is no affirmative duty imposed by law to report it to law enforcement. 

Talking with a Russian and gathering information is not a crime.  Yet Pelosi and others allege that the president’s son may also be guilty of conspiracies to commit espionage and defraud the government. 

As explained in an earlier column, the Trump Jr. meeting is not treason because we are not at war with Russia. It is not collusion in any criminal sense, because that only applies to anti-trust cases.  It is not conspiracy to defraud the government, because the statute requires deceit and dishonesty. And it is not a violation of election laws, because foreign nationals are specifically permitted to volunteer personal services and information to political campaigns.  As for espionage…seriously? What U.S. secrets or classified information is Pelosi talking about?   

Democrats and even some Republicans, like Gov. Chris Christie, are perpetuating the myth that laws must have been broken without ever knowing or studying the law. And many in the media are so ignorant of basic laws and oblivious to the Constitution, they are complicit in misinforming the public. 

Rarely do we see a reporter or anchor ask a lawmaker the tough, challenging question, “What laws, specifically, have been broken? Can you identify a precise statute?” The answer would be a deafening silence. 

Our Constitution was never intended to embody a political point of view. It was made for people of fundamentally differing views. Unfortunately, those in Washington who should know that… do not.    

And the media, which owes its existence to that esteemed document, seem to have forgotten its precious guarantees of freedom. 

Gregg Jarrett is a Fox News legal analyst and former defense attorney.