Today in OpenGov: Donald Trump Jr. was Russian for dirt on Hillary


Read on for the latest on revelations around Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer, plus the rest of the day's open government news from around the world including a key resignation at the State Department, a push for surveillance reforms, an open records win in New Jersey, and more.

Russian to meet you

Donald Trump Jr. Image Credit: Gage Skidmore

Following several days of reporting by the New York Times, Donald Trump Jr. shared the content of emails on Twitter which documented him eagerly accepting a meeting in which a Russian lawyer offered  information that would incriminate his father's political opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The "transparency" his father praises in a statement and tweet was prompted by the imminent publication of the correspondence by the Times. The emails make it clear that Trump Jr. understood the information was coming from high level Russian government sources and was "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump."

The email chain describes how a meeting – reported earlier this week in the New York Times by Jo Becker, Matt Apuzzo, and Adam Goldman – between Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and a Russian Attorney named Natalia Veselnitskaya came to pass. 

  • These mails may be a key point of evidence for the Department of Justice regarding the campaign's collusion with Russia. "Donald Trump Jr. may have just given Robert Mueller “smoking gun” evidence signaling his father’s presidential campaign colluded with the Russian government to win the 2016 election, according to veteran prosecutors and white-collar defense attorneys experienced in Washington scandals." (POLITICO)
  • At minimum, they indicate potentially serious campaign finance violations. "It is illegal for a person to solicit a contribution to a campaign from a foreign individual or entity," campaign finance expect Rick Hasen explained. "Looking at the emails, it seems pretty serious…Hard to see how there is not a serious case here of solicitation. Trump Jr. appears to have knowledge of the foreign source and is asking to see it. As I explained earlier, such information can be considered a 'thing of value' for purposes of the campaign finance law." (Election Law Blog)
  • What we can say is that this is not normal. If campaigns receive such materials, the ethical choice is to tell the FBI. "The defense that this was a routine meeting to hear about opposition research is nonsense," write former White House counsels Richard Painter and Norm Eisen. "As ethics lawyers, we have worked on political campaigns for decades and have never heard of an offer like this one. If we had, we would have insisted upon immediate notification of the F.B.I., and so would any normal campaign lawyer, official or even senior volunteer."

Elsewhere in trumplandia

  • Trump's deregulation teams have deep industry ties. A major investigation by ProPublica and the New York Times found that the Trump Administration's deregulatory push "is being conducted in large part out of public view and often by political appointees with deep industry ties and potential conflicts. Most government agencies have declined to disclose information about their deregulation teams. But The New York Times and ProPublica identified 71 appointees, including 28 with potential conflicts, through interviews, public records and documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act." (New York Times)
  • Trump sued for blocking Twitter users who disagree with him. "President Trump is getting sued for blocking dissenting Twitter users by a First Amendment group, which alleges his actions violate the Constitution. The case was filed Tuesday in a New York City court by the Knight First Amendment Institute, which represents seven Twitter users who claim to have been blocked by the president." (The Hill)
  • Resignation of State Department advisor sparks new concerns. "The science and technology adviser to the secretary of State has tendered his resignation, effective next week. The resignation has sparked concern amid some in the science community that the position could be eliminated." Vaughn Turekian's departure comes as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson works on a sweeping reorganization of the agency. (Government Executive)

states and cities

Seattle, Washington. Image Credit: Flickr user MAËLICK
  • Norfolk, Virginia seeks public feedback on their open data policy. "Norfolk has collaborated with What Works Cities to draft an Open Data Policy and implement an Open Data program. City Council will consider an ordinance to adopt this program, with the policy as its foundation." You can read the policy and provide feedback here
  • New Jersey Supreme Court supports release of police dash cam footage. "The state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that authorities must turn over to a news organization dashboard camera footage of a fatal 2014 police shooting, as well as unredacted use-of-force reports that include the names of the officers who opened fire." (POLITICO)
  • Seattle appoints Chief Privacy Officer. "Seattle’s Privacy Principles were established in 2015 as part of an effort to better define the way the city collects, uses and disposes of constituent data. Armbruster will now lead the effort within the Information Technology Department." (Government Technology)

washington watch

FBI headquarters in Washington, DC. 
  • Coalition pushes for reforms to limit FBI use of warrantless data. Sunlight joined a coalition of "civil rights, privacy rights, and civil liberty organizations calling for Congress to support reforms to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to prevent the FBI and domestic law enforcement agencies from engaging in unlawful surveillance of U.S. persons." Read more at and see the full letter here
  • Census Bureau paring down its 2020 dress rehearsal. "The Census Bureau's decisions to pare down operations and tests of IT systems to manage its finances in advance of the decennial count have extended to the critical 2018 dress rehearsal," reports Chase Gunter. (Federal Computer Week)
  • It's time to bring Senate campaign finance disclosure into the 21st century. William Gray details the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act. The bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Jon Tester (D-MT) and Thad Cochran (R-MS), "strengthens timely transparency of campaign contributions by requiring U.S. Senate candidates to file their campaign finance reports electronically with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), rather than via an archaic and cumbersome paper-based (!) report to the Secretary of the Senate. Presidential and House candidates must disclose their donors electronically, why not the Senate?" (Issue One
  • The DATA Act is a win for an agile development approach in government. "The DATA Act implementation team of Treasury officials, the General Services Administration’s 18F and vendors opted for agile development techniques, which break larger projects down into iterative, incremental steps and rely on frequent user feedback. The team decided against building new systems and instead mapped where valuable data resided across government and figured out how to extract and validate it." (Nextgov)

save the dates

  • July 10th through 24th: e-Forum Discussion on the Agriculture Open Data Package, virtual. "The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in partnership with the Global Open Data on Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) are inviting interested individuals to participate in this forum discussion on 'Agriculture Open Data Package' to be held on the e-Agriculture Platform. The initial target audience for this forum are policy-makers, researchers, open data experts, and/or agricultural experts – however, any one interested is invited to attend." Learn more about the forum and how to participate here
  • July 19th, 5:30 PM EST. Book Discussion: When Your Job Wants You To Lie in Washington, DC. "Join us for a discussion that will help us deal with the kinds of situations we all encounter. Presented by the American Society for Public Administration, National Capital Area Chapter (ASPA NCAC). Refreshments start 5:30, and the discussion starts 6:00. Space is limited, so you must RSVP in advance." Learn more and RSVP here.
  • July 27th, 10 am: Chief FOIA Officers Council Meeting in Washington, DC. "OGIS and the Department of Information Policy (OIP) at the Department of Justice are happy to announce that the next meeting of the Chief FOIA Officers Council will be held on Thursday, July 27th from 10 am to noon. You can register to join the audience in the William G. McGowan Theater beginning on July 26. You can also plan on watching the livestream via the National Archives’ YouTube Channel."
  • August 1st: DKAN Summit in Washington, DC. Part of Drupal GovCon 2017, the DKAN Open Data Summit will feature open data leaders discussing how DKAN can be used to facilitate government open data efforts. Learn more and register here.
  • September 11th and 12th: TicTec@Taipei in Taipei. "TICTeC@Taipei is the first ever conference about the influence of civic tech to be held in Asia. We’ve invited members of academia, business, politics, NGOs, education to participate, and discuss their research. We hope through this event, we can build a global network of civic tech enthusiasts." The event is being held during #CivicTechFest 2017. Learn more, submit a session proposal, and register to attend here.
  • September 13th: Civic and Gov Tech Showcase in San Jose, California. "Innovate Your State, in partnership with Microsoft and the City of San Jose, is bringing the 3nd Annual Civic & Gov Tech Showcase to the Capitol of Silicon Valley. The Civic & Gov Tech Showcase is an opportunity to connect with civic minded entrepreneurs, potential investors, and government leaders to showcase the great work that is being done to improve government and governance. The goal of the event is to encourage collaboration and the support of new technologies to improve government and public participation." Learn more and get your tickets here.
  • September 14th – 16th: Digital Humanities and Data Journalism Symposium, in Miami, Florida. "Digital humanists and data journalists face common challenges, opportunities, and goals, such as how to communicate effectively with the public. They use similar software tools, programming languages, and techniques, and they can learn from each other. Join us for lectures and tutorials about shared data types, visualization methods, and data communication — including text visualization, network diagrams, maps, databases and data wrangling. In addition to the scheduled content, there will be opportunities for casual conversation and networking." Learn more and register here.
  • September 28th: Powering Sustainable Development with Access to Information, Paris, France. "The 'IPDCtalks' will be held to highlight and elaborate on the importance of Access to Information for all sustainable development efforts around the world. It will consist of a series of attractive and dynamic talks from global public leaders, top journalists, young intellectuals and community leaders. While some of the speakers will elaborate on the key role of Access to Information for the achievement of a particular Sustainable Development Goal, others will reflect on the essential role of Access to Information for our society and future." You can learn more and request an invitation on the event website. If you're interested, but can't attend the event will be broadcast live on the web.


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