In a television panel discussion on Monday, CNN legal analyst Ross Garber said Donald Trump Jr.’s 2016 meeting with Russians was probably not illegal. “I think there’s actually a fairly good argument that it’s not illegal, that information would not be considered by the courts to be a ‘thing of value,’ largely because of the First Amendment,” Garber said. His comment came despite widespread condemnation from media and progressive Democrats that the Trump Tower meeting violated election laws prohibiting campaigns from accepting any “thing of value” from foreign nationals.
During the discussion, Garber compared Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting to the Clinton campaign’s commissioning of the so-called Steele dossier, which was produced by a former British intelligence agent, to embarrass then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. Garber noted that the dossier was compiled, at least in part, by Russian nationals. “Then the other thing the president points out, fairly, is if information is a thing of value, well then what about the information that came from Russian nationals and to the Clinton campaign and the DNC through Steele?That’s a fair point,” Garber said.
After CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer tried to steering the conversation away from the Clinton campaign’s possible collusion with Russia, Garber returned to his point. “In the Clinton situation there is information coming from Russian nationals to the Clinton campaign through somebody else,” Garber recalled. When CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger sought to press Garber into saying that the Trump Tower meeting was ill-advised, Garber said that while he would not advise his clients to follow through on such as “terrible idea,” he reiterated that he did not think the meeting was illegal.