Memo to Donald Trump, Jr. from counsel: A bungled crime is still a crime.
If you don’t believe me, ask tens of thousands of inmates living behind bars. Planning a crime and failing to successfully pull it off can still be a crime.
And Donnie just admitted it, on Capital Hill, to members and staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee in a copy of his prepared testimony obtained by The Washington Post.
Referring to his July, 2016 meeting with Kremlin associates, in which he, Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner agreed to meet on a promise of damaging information on Hillary Clinton illegally obtained by Russia, Don Jr. testified “The meeting provided no meaningful information and turned out not to be about what had been represented.”
That statement alone may be enough for Robert Mueller to start preparing an indictment for criminal conspiracy against Don Jr., Manafort, and Kushner, unless they strike a deal to turn on President Trump.
Criminal Law 101
This is really Criminal Law 101. By definition, a criminal conspiracy exists when two or more people agree to commit almost any unlawful act, then take some action toward its completion.
For example, if two or more people want to rob a bank and go to case the joint, the minute they walk in the bank, they’ve committed conspiracy to commit robbery, even if they do nothing else to actually rob the bank and never get any money.
If Don Jr., Manafort, and Kushner met with representatives connected to a foreign adversary—Russia—and actually received illegally obtained documents on Hillary Clinton, few would doubt that they’d committed a crime.
But just attending the meeting in the hope of obtaining such documents is likely criminal conspiracy, even if no documents were actually provided.
Elementary, Mr. Mueller
This is elementary, and Robert Mueller surely understands it. He now has Don Jr.’s virtual admission to criminal conspiracy in his written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. This may well be enough to bring indictments against Don Jr., Manafort, and Kushner.
Faced with possible prison, might Manafort or Kushner, if not Don. Jr. himself flip and testify against President Trump?
Putting aside any other possible crimes they might have knowledge of, the Russia meeting alone might be enough to make President Trump a criminal coconspirator. This would likely be true if he knew of the meeting in advance and encouraged it.
His known role in drafting a statement after the fact in Don Jr.’s name, claiming that the meeting was about Russian orphans – which is shorthand for lifting sanctions on Russia under the Magnitsky Act – could also constitute obstruction of justice.
No Viable Defense
Stupidity and incompetence are not viable defenses to criminal conspiracy. Don Jr., Manafort, Kushner, and maybe even President Trump might start fitting themselves for striped pajamas.
Of course, President Trump could pardon them all of federal charges. Then it’s a question of whether Congressional Republicans will have the guts to impeach President Trump, or will simply continue to look the other way.