Mueller Obtaining Search Warrant For Facebook Content Means Trouble For Trump
The Wall Street Journal has reported that FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller obtained info from Facebook via search warrant. He could not obtain “content” of an account without a warrant. The Journal talks about some of the info Mueller obtained:
The information Facebook shared with Mr. Mueller included copies of the ads and details about the accounts that bought them and the targeting criteria they used, the people familiar with the matter said. Facebook policy dictates it would only turn over “the stored contents of any account,” including messages and location information, in response to a search warrant, some of them said.
A search warrant from Mr. Mueller would mean the special counsel now has a powerful tool to probe the details of how social media was used as part of a campaign of Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election. Russia has denied any interference in the election.
CNN has confirmed that Mueller obtained content via search warrant, including ads, acct details, targeting, etc.
This means that Mueller has concluded that specific foreign individuals committed a crime by making a “contribution” in connection with an election. It also means that he has evidence of that crime that convinced a federal magistrate judge of two things.
The first is that there was good reason to believe that the foreign individual committed the crime. The second is that evidence of the crime existed on Facebook. Until now, Mueller’s efforts to obtain information about Russian interference in the election could be seen as an effort to gain counterintelligence or to investigate a matter unlikely to result in charges. Now we know he believes that he’s close to charging specific foreign people with a crime. Can he do that? He can if they committed a crime in the U.S. For example, Osama Bin Laden was indicted for the first World Trade Center bombing.
What This Mueller Move Means For Trump And His Associates
52 U.S. Code § 30121 – Contributions and donations by foreign nationals
(a)Prohibition It shall be unlawful for—
(1)a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make —
a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election;
a contribution or donation to a committee of a political party; or
an expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for anelectioneering communication (within the meaning of section 30104(f)(3) of this title); or
a person to solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1) from a foreign national.
(b)“Foreign national” definedAs used in this section, the term “foreign national” means—
a foreign principal, as such term is defined by section 611(b) of title 22, except that the term “foreign national” shall not include any individual who is a citizen of the United States; or
an individual who is not a citizen of the United States or a national of the United States (as defined in section 1101(a)(22) of title 8) and who is not lawfully admitted for permanent residence, as defined by section 1101(a)(20) of title 8.
It is a crime to know that a crime is taking place and to help it succeed otherwise known as aiding and abetting. If any Trump associate knew about the foreign contributions that Mueller’s search warrant focused on and helped that effort in a tangible way, they could be charged.
In addition, anyone who agreed to be part of this effort in any way could be charged with criminal conspiracy. They wouldn’t need to be involved in the whole operation or know everyone involved but they would have to agree to be part of some piece of it. This particular violation of the law preventing foreign contributions in connection with an election is far stronger than earlier speculation that Donald Trump Jr. violated the same law by accepting information from the Russian attorney.
In order to violate the statute criminally, one has to do so knowingly and willfully. Here, Mueller has evidence that the foreigner(s) had that intent, and it’s far more difficult for an American to claim that they didn’t know a massive Russian influence operation was against the law than it would be to make the same claim about hearing talk at a meeting.