Trump And Giuliani Say Collusion Is Not A Crime. The DOJ Says Otherwise.
On Monday morning, President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani hit the press circuit and took on a new strategy: Rather than arguing that his client didn’t commit any crimes, Giuliani appears to be claiming that conspiring with a foreign government to interfere in America’s 2016 election isn’t a crime. President Trump repeated this claim.
Giuliani: “I don’t even know if that’s a crime, colluding about Russians. You start analyzing the crime — the hacking is the crime. The president didn’t hack” pic.twitter.com/GTnUxXBeTL
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) July 30, 2018
“I have been sitting here looking in the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime. Collusion is not a crime.” ? pic.twitter.com/fD1MdS6T29
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 30, 2018
“Collusion is not a crime” is a talking point that many conservatives have stated over the last several months. Legal experts have noted that although the word “collusion” itself isn’t a crime, “conspiracy” is indeed a crime. As former U.S. Attorney Renato Mariotti notes, “A conspiracy is just a legal term for an agreement to commit a crime. You aid and abet a crime if you know about criminal activity and actively try to make it succeed.” If someone colluded with the Russian Government in furtherance of their crimes would make them a co-conspirator, according to legal experts and the Justice Department.
When it comes to the word collusion, it appears Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein does indeed perceive it as a crime when it’s in furtherance of other crimes such as conspiracy to defraud the United States or conspiracy to engage in illegal computer hacking. As CNN’s Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin pointed out, Rosenstein’s August 2017 memo expanding the scope of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe specifically references collusion as a crime when pointing out what Mueller is permitted to investigate:
Allegations that Paul Manafort:
Committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election for President of the United States, in violation of United States law…
Another indication of how the Justice Department sees collusion and criminal conspiracy comes in Mueller’s indictments. As we know, Mueller has indicted 25 Russians (13 Russian entities were indicted earlier this year for their propaganda campaign, and 12 Russian intelligence officers (GRU) were indicted for hacking the DNC, DCCC, and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign during the 2016 election and leaking through DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0).
Mueller’s indictment of the 13 Russian entities for their propaganda (troll farm) operation gives us more insight:
Defendants, together with others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, knowingly and intentionally conspired to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of State in administering federal requirements for disclosure of foreign involvement in certain domestic activities.
Mueller considers defrauding the United States as including “impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the Federal Election Commission.” That is broad and brings us to potential election law violations. As many legal experts have noted, federal law Section 30121 of Title 52, states that it is a crime for a foreign national to contribute money or other items of value to an American election, as well as making it illegal for an American to solicit such a contribution. Legal experts have argued that the allegedly Trump-approved June 2016 Trump Tower meeting (where Donald Trump Jr., then-Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner sought dirt from Russian operatives), would qualify as violating federal election law.
When it comes to the hacking indictment, legal experts have argued if there was collusion in furtherance of the hacks, it could qualify as conspiracy to engage in illegal computer hacking. Mueller’s indictment outlines that on July 27, 2016, Russians began spearphishing campaigns targeting Clinton’s personal office emails for the first time and also targeted Clinton’s campaign. This was the same day Donald Trump publicly stated: “Russia if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
When it comes to the dissemination of hacked materials, Mueller’s indictment includes co-conspirators who disseminated that hacked data, including an unnamed “entity” that appears to be Wikileaks. If Americans aided in disseminating this hacked data, then they could be roped in as co-conspirators. Mueller’s indictment also includes multiple excerpts that appear to depict Trump’s campaign advisor Roger Stone, who spoke to Guccifer 2.0 during the campaign. “The conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, wrote to a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump.”
There have been reports of Donald Trump Jr. directly communicated with Wikileaks via Twitter direct message. And there’s arguably no one who cited Wikileaks more than then-Candidate Donald Trump himself.
WATCH: Pres. Trump mentioned Wikileaks 141 times in the month before the election. pic.twitter.com/4Z7fcwrLSm
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) November 15, 2017
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has established the underlying crimes on the part of the Russians. What’s next appears to be any of the American co-conspirators who are currently unnamed. And after that, obstruction of justice.