The art of the Trump Tower deal
If the Trump Tower meeting had just been about the Magnitsky Act, it would be an untoward and unethical but not a significant violation. A foreign government can try to lobby a electoral campaign if it wants. If the Trump Tower meeting had just been about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton, it would have been (and was) a serious campaign finance violation, albeit one that the nation might or might not forgive from a fly-by-night rookie campaign team if it had produced no real results. Though even then, of course, Paul Manafort was no rookie, and the conspiracy to break campaign finance laws and the lies to cover it up are very serious matters.
But it’s the combination of the two that is most damning. The one interesting hitch of the campaign finance violation argument is that the Russians did not in fact deliver the stolen campaign documents directly to the Trump campaign. As we know, the Russians instead released the material to Wikileaks, who proceeded to drop it at a time and in a fashion most advantageous to the Trump campaign.
Why would the Russians do this if no deal had in fact been struck with Trump? Why, when Trump asked (and later claimed he was joking) if Russia could find Hillary Clinton’s emails, did the Russians proceed to attempt to hack her system that very night if there was no quid pro quo?
That’s the obvious question isn’t it? They must have received some indication at some point that their “help” would be rewarded. Whether they knew this because they were blackmailing him or because it was a “deal” is unknown. But it certainly does appear that an agreement of some kind existed.