UPDATE: President Donald Trump on Tuesday repeated a claim made by his legal counsel, Rudy Giuliani, stating in a tweet his impassioned belief that collusion isn’t a criminal act, not that he colluded, he added.
Trump’s statement further alleged that his former opponent in the 2016 presidential election engaged in collusion herself.
“Collusion is not a crime, but that doesn’t matter because there was No Collusion (except by Crooked Hillary and the Democrats)!” Trump wrote.
Collusion is not a crime, but that doesn’t matter because there was No Collusion (except by Crooked Hillary and the Democrats)!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 31, 2018
The argument is cyclical and makes very little sense. Trump is claiming collusion is not a crime, then saying he didn’t collude, and then concluding with the idea that collusion is bad because (he claims) his political rivals did it.
Furthermore, collusion is a crime, although its listed under different names in the U.S. legal code. Still, whether you call it collusion or conspiracy to defraud the nation, Trump, his campaign officials, and members of his administration are not yet off the hook.
Although it’s a claim that Giuliani has been making for months, collusion with Russia would still land Trump and others in a lot of hot water. By simply stating it’s not a crime on Twitter, Trump is doing very little to help himself, legally speaking. Collusion may not be a crime per se, but the action of colluding with a foreign power to win an election definitely falls within the purview of criminal activities.
President Donald Trump’s legal counsel, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, is spinning misinformation and misdirection about his client so fast that it’s hard to keep up with the official line the president is pushing these days with regard to the Russia investigation.
In a series of interviews on Monday morning, Giuliani took a new approach in defending his client. Rather than say that Trump and his 2016 campaign hadn’t colluded with the Russian government to help Trump win the election, Giuliani questioned whether, if collusion had occurred, that would be a crime at all.
“I have been sitting here looking in the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime,” Giuliani said on Fox News. “Collusion is not a crime.”
He repeated the claim on CNN.
“Colluding about Russia may not be a crime,” he began. “You start analyzing the crime...the hacking is the crime. [Trump] did not hack.”
In actuality, there is no specific statute that does make collusion a crime — but other actions, which special counsel Robert Mueller is likely looking into, could land Trump or others on his campaign team in trouble.
“There's a significant difference between the Russians having dirt and offering that dirt, and someone asking the Russians to commit an illegal act to obtain that dirt,” a former lawyer with the former Office of the Independent Counsel explained last year. “The latter likely would be prosecutable, and probably as a conspiracy to commit a computer crime or as a computer crime.”
A former FBI chief of staff agrees, going so far as to say that collusion is indeed a criminal act, though the law may not technically call it collusion.
"Collusion is a crime," Chuck Rosenberg, who served under former FBI director James Comey, said. "We just happen to call it something else, we call it conspiracy, but it is absolutely a crime."
In the same month that the Russia meeting at Trump Tower occurred, Trump pleaded with that government to hack his rival Hillary Clinton’s emails. Investigators are likely curious whether efforts by team Trump were made to get Russia to obtain dirt on her in a more direct manner — and whether they fit Rosenberg's assertions of collusion with regard to conspiracy.
However, there’s a new wrinkle to the entire ordeal. Giuliani, in his Monday interviews, also suggested that Trump’s campaign team had planned their own strategy session two days prior to the Russia meeting that took place at Trump Tower. On the very same day of that strategy session, Trump announced to the world that he would make a presentation shortly about dirt he had acquired on Clinton.
“I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week, and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons,” he said. “I think you’re going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.”
That “major speech” never ended up happening, but one has to wonder whether that was because Trump was just making stuff up on the fly during that particular moment, or if he had known about the meeting that was to take place at Trump Tower in advance (recent comments from his former "fixer" lawyer Michael Cohen seem to suggest the latter).
Besides possible collusion, Trump also has to worry about obstruction of justice charges he may face in the future. It’s not that difficult to observe that Trump is in for a world of headaches in the months, possibly years, ahead.
With Giuliani as his legal counsel, those headaches may exacerbate. Giuliani is happy to change the story again and again about his client — which may play well with Trump’s base but ultimately won’t hold up in a court of law.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters, Carlos Barria