Memo to Donald Trump, Jr.: 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 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 were promised 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.
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.
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 by President Trump that they might have knowledge of, the Russia meeting alone could be enough to make President Trump a criminal co-conspirator. This would likely be true if he knew of the meeting in advance and encouraged it. His role in drafting a statement in Don Jr.’s name claiming that the meeting was about Russian orphans (which is code for being about lifting Russian sanctions) could also constitute obstruction of justice.
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 and then it’s a question of whether Congressional Republicans would finally impeach President Trump, or let him and his family and associates get away with criminal conduct.