Donald Trump Jr.’s private exchanges with WikiLeaks on Twitter during the 2016 campaign raise a host of new questions about the Trump team’s communications with foreign entities before the election. But the messages alone don’t appear to cross any clear-cut legal lines. “I certainly didn’t see anything that looks like a smoking gun in the descriptions that we were given,” Rick Hasen, a University of California, Irvine, law professor who specializes in election law, told me. My colleague Julia Ioffe reported Monday that Trump Jr. exchanged multiple private messages on Twitter with the radical transparency organization before the election. In some cases, Trump Jr. appeared to act on requests from the group. In one instance, for example, he tweeted a link it had sent his way. A message posted by his father’s account soon after the group contacted Trump Jr. also mentioned WikiLeaks. The messaging, which WikiLeaks initiated during the election and continued as recently as July, was not previously known to the public.
Most of the public discussion about the Russia investigation centers on the question of collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign to undermine Clinton. But “collusion” isn’t a specific crime under federal law. Instead, legal experts have questioned whether any Trump campaign officials may have violated a campaign-finance statute that bars foreigners from donating money or any other “thing of value” to a campaign. That same provision also forbids campaign officials from soliciting such a donation.