Lying to Congress is a crime, even if you are not under oath.
On September 7, 2017, Donald Trump Jr. appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of its investigation into foreign interference in the 2016 election and the potential involvement of the Trump campaign.
Early on in the proceedings, which began at 9:34 in the morning, the following exchange occurred:
Q: You should understand that, although the interview is not under oath, by law you are required to answer questions from Congress truthfully. Do you understand that?
TRUMP JR: I do.
Lying to Congress is a crime even if you are not under oath. Federal law prohibits making false statements to Congress. If false statements were made “knowingly and willfully” about “material facts,” it is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Much of the questioning before the Senate Intelligence Committee that day focused on the meeting Trump Jr. arranged in Trump Tower in June 2016, after Trump was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government.
But toward the end of his interview, Trump Jr. was asked more broadly about contacts with foreign nationals seeking to assist the campaign — and his testimony may now come back to haunt him.
Q: We’ve talked a lot about Russia. So I have some broader questions about other foreign governments. Did other foreign governments offer or provide assistance to the Trump campaign?
TRUMP JR: None that I’m aware of.
Q: Did other foreign nationals offer or provide assistance to the Trump Campaign?
TRUMP JR: No.
As journalist Marcy Wheeler noted, these responses appear to directly contradict recent reporting from the New York Times.
On August 3, 2016, according to a report published last Saturday, Donald Trump Jr. met with an Australian-Israeli man named Joel Zamel, who offered to help the Trump campaign with “a social media manipulation effort to help elect Mr. Trump.”
Also attending the meeting was “an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes.” This man, an American named George Nader, told Trump Jr. that “the princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president,” according to the Times report.
In response to the New York Times, Trump Jr.’s lawyer, Alan Futerfas, confirmed that the meeting took place. He described it as a pitch for “a social media platform or marketing strategy.”
As a legal matter, the issue is now whether or not Trump Jr. provided a “knowing” and “material” false statement about this meeting to members of Congress last September.
Trump Jr. would likely claim that the meeting slipped his mind, or that it was inconsequential and therefore immaterial. But there is trouble on the horizon. One of the principals at the meeting, George Nader, is reportedly cooperating with the Mueller investigation.