Giuliani Lays It Out On the Table: “Collusion is Not a Crime”
It was the statement that rocked the political world on Monday. President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the hosts of “Fox & Friends” that no matter what the president’s critics might think or what nastiness they might accuse him of, the fact remained that there was actually no such thing as the crime of “collusion.”
“I have been sitting here looking in the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime,” Giuliani said. “Collusion is not a crime.”
Giuliani’s comment has the media wags claiming that the president’s defense is now pivoting; after more than a year of claiming there was “no collusion” between his campaign and the Russians, the defense will now be: Well, maybe there was collusion but it’s okay because it’s not a crime.
And to be fair, it’s not hard to see why people would think that.
So perhaps that is what we’re seeing right now. Perhaps President Trump did know about that Trump Tower meeting with the Russian lawyer after all. Perhaps the defense now becomes: So what?
It’s not the worst question.
The crime in this scenario, mind you, is the hacking of the DNC servers and whatever tampering the Russians might have attempted in terms of state voter rolls. It is not a crime, as far as we’re aware, to post political stuff on Twitter or make ads for Facebook or whatever other kinds of social media “meddling” the Russians got up to. It is not a crime, as far as we’re aware, to accept opposition research on your opponent from a foreign entity. If it is, then it is one that Hillary Clinton must be charged with as well. Last we checked, neither Christopher Steele nor the Russians he spoke to in the process of writing up that dossier are American citizens. Neither are the Ukrainians that dished to the Clinton camp about Trump. So if “collusion” is a crime, we’ll have to lock Hillary and Trump in a cell side by side.
Giuliani made this point explicit in his interview later with CNN.
“I don’t even know if that’s a crime, colluding about Russians,” Giuliani said. “You start analyzing the crime — the hacking is the crime. The president didn’t hack. He didn’t pay them for hacking.”
It’s difficult to say where all of this will wash out, but this does provide a reminder of why Robert Mueller is focusing so intently on the “obstruction” aspect of the investigation. It’s the only crime he has a prayer of proving. Unfortunately for the special counsel, obstruction in this instance is going to largely come down to a matter of subjective opinion. Was Trump “obstructing justice” when he fired his FBI director (knowing full well that the investigation would continue)? Was he obstructing justice when he wrote mean words about Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein on Twitter? It all gets a little silly. And that’s before you even get into the question of whether or not Trump, as president, can even be indicted for a crime. Many legal scholars doubt it.
Ultimately, this is going to be Robert Mueller providing some kind of report to Congress/the public. It will then become a matter of pure politics. And we have a feeling that, absent some smoking gun that shows that Trump had foreknowledge of actual Russian crimes, the reaction to Mueller’s report is going to be a big, steaming, “Who cares?”