How President Trump's Defense Went From 'No Collusion' With Russia to 'Collusion Is Not a Crime'
The first time that Donald Trump argued about collusion, it was to claim that his political opponents were doing it. Then, it was to argue that he had not done it. Now his attorney is arguing that itâs not even a crime.
But legal experts say that the entire discussion around collusion has been beside the point.
âItâs not whether itâs the crime of collusion itâs whether they engaged in the act of collusion in furtherance of actual criminal behavior,â said Bradley Moss, an attorney in Washington D.C. who specializes in national security issues.
Peter Zeidenberg, who was deputy special counsel in the Scooter Libby case and worked with Special Counsel Robert Mueller at the Justice Department, explained that while the legal code doesnât strictly define collusion, that doesnât mean acts of collusion are not criminal.
âLiterally thatâs true: there is no crime of collusion. But I donât know how you collude with Russia without conspiring to do so and I think itâs pretty clear that Mueller believes conspiracy with those working to interfere with the election is a crime. Itâs a crime of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States,â said Zeidenberg. âWhat heâs saying is you can collude but thereâs not a crime and I think thatâs not really true. I think theyâre constantly trying to move the goalpost.â
Trump has used the ambiguity around the term collusion to defend himself as part of a broader campaign to muddy the waters around investigations into any ties his campaign had with Russians who were meddling in the 2016 election. With his former campaign head, Paul Manafort, facing a trial this week on bank fraud and tax charges stemming from special counsel Robert Muellerâs investigation, Trump has stepped up his attacks on the probe.
In the past, Trump has used the ambiguity around âcollusionâ to attack his opponents.
Read More: The 207 Arguments Trump Has Made Against the Russia Probe
During the Republican presidential primary in 2016, he tweeted that his rivals Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich had to âto team up (collusion) in a two on oneâ because they couldnât beat him on their own, implying something nefarious about a common political tactic in a three-way race.
Later, he accused Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton of âcollusion,â âcover upsâ and âbriberyâ in an attack that fact-checkers found âfalseâ and âover the top,â and argued without evidence that she âcolludedâ with the FBI to get an investigation into her private email server shut down.
But when federal investigators began looking into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including any role his campaign might have played, Trump first argued that there was no evidence of collusion, then (falsely) that the evidence proved there was no collusion and, finally, without evidence, that the real collusion was with the Clinton campaign.
Since March of 2017, Trump has tweeted that there was âno collusionâ at least 90 times, including twice on Sunday, when he argued that âthere is no Collusionâ and also â" again, without evidence â" that the âreal Russian Collusion on the Democrats side.â
But on Monday, Trumpâs personal attorney, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, argued that collusion is actually not against the law.
âIâve been sitting here looking at the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime,â Giuliani told âFox and Friends.â âCollusion is not a crime.â And on CNNâs âNew Day,â he said, âI donât even know if thatâs a crime, colluding about Russians.â
âIâve been saying that from the very beginning â¦ itâs a very, very familiar lawyersâ argument that the alternative, my client didnât do it and even if he did it, itâs not a crime,â Giuliani said later in the day on Fox News.
That echoed arguments Trump has made in the past against collusion.
In an interview with the New York Times in December, Trump cited a legal expert heâd seen on cable news defending him. âThere is no collusion, and even if there was, itâs not a crime,â he said.
Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor who ran for attorney general as a Democrat in Illinois, said the shift from âno collusionâ to âcollusion is not a crimeâ was telling.
âInstead of saying âno collusion,â well now theyâre saying there is no such thing as collusion, which suggests they think there is evidence out there that makes it hard for them to deny there is collusion,â he said. âAnd so they switched gears which is an interesting shift in strategy.â
Correction, July 30th, 2018:
The original version of this story misstated that Renato Mariotti is still a candidate for Attorney General of Illinois. He is no longer a candidate; he lost the stateâs primary in March.Source: Google News Russia | Netizen 24 Russia