Ex-Bush ethics lawyer on Trump Jr: 'This borders on treason'

An ethics lawyer under former President George W. Bush blasted Donald Trump Jr. for meeting with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have compromising information on then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections Highest-ranking GOP assemblyman in WI against another audit of 2020 vote Women's March endorses Nina Turner in first-ever electoral endorsement MORE during the campaign, saying it “borders on treason.”

“This was an effort to get opposition research on an opponent in an American political campaign from the Russians, who were known to be engaged in spying inside the United States,” Richard Painter said Sunday on MSNBC.

“We do not get our opposition research from spies, we do not collaborate with Russian spies, unless we want to be accused of treason.”

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Painter said the Bush administration would not have allowed the meeting, which was attended by Trump Jr., then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and President TrumpDonald TrumpRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Jake Ellzey defeats Trump-backed candidate in Texas House runoff DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit MORE's son-in-law Jared Kushner, now a White House senior adviser, to happen.

“If this story is true, we’d have one of them if not both of them in custody by now, and we’d be asking them a lot of questions,” he said. “This is unacceptable. This borders on treason, if it is not itself treason.”

Painter’s comments follow a Sunday report from The New York Times that Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Russian lawyer, who has ties to the Kremlin, came after the lawyer promised damaging information about Clinton.

He attended the meeting with the expectation that he would receive compromising information about Clinton, three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two other sources with knowledge of the matter told the Times.

Trump Jr. said in a statement to the paper on Sunday that he had met with Natalia Veselnitskaya at the request of an acquaintance and denied that he received any information on Clinton.

“After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton,” he said. “Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”

“It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting,” Trump Jr. said.