Third: Did this conversation create a crime? Yes, regardless of the lying to the FBI part of it — the actual substance of the conversation is illegal. There’s a US law called the Logan Act which prohibits private citizens from conducting foreign policy without the express written consent of the US government.
If these conversations occurred when Trump was the President-Elect, and it appeared that they did, then this is normal business for a president elect and his adminstrative team-to-be. It may be in TECHNICAL violation of the Logan Act, but there are well documented (and not even secret) instances of this happening in the past.
So, three thoughts:
- The Logan Act may itself be unconstitutional. Legal scholars have thought this for some time, that if an actual charge were to be brought under the Logan Act, the constitutionality of it would be questioned by the defense.
- If other president-elects and their incoming cabinets have had similar foreign policy conversations in the past (and we know they have), then bringing a Logan Act charge would questionable on the the grounds that the law is not being universally applied. Selective prosecution and all that.
- Because of (1) and (2), the chances that this affects Trump or incents the GOP to bring impeachment proceedings are close to nil. It will look like a nevertrumper witch hunt, and the public will not respond positively.
The stock market today, which hates uncertainty, dropped 300 points on the ABC story. After ABC modified their story, which changed “candidate Trump” to “president elect Trump”, the market recovered 260 of those points. Because nothing that was revealed today suggests any issue that could impact Trump policy.
Basically, the smart guys in the room blew the news off.