President Donald Trump has spent more than a year deflecting accusations that his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia to win--but his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, employed a new tactic on Monday b y declaring he's not sure if collusion with a foreign power during a U.S. presidential campaign is a crime.
"Rudy Giuliani is a former prosecutor. He knows that conspiracy is a crime." --Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.)
Asked about Paul Manafort's brief time as Trump's campaign manager, Giuliani told CNN's Alisyn Camerota, "Four months, they're not going to be colluding with Russia, which 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."
\u201cGiuliani: "I don't even know if that's a crime, colluding about Russians. You start analyzing the crime \u2014 the hacking is the crime. The president didn't hack\u201d\u201d— CNN Politics (@CNN Politics) 1532953262
The former New York mayor and federal prosecutor echoed a sentiment he expressed earlier in the day on "Fox and Friends."
Trump himself also said in a New York Times interview in December, "There is no collusion, and even if there was, it's not a crime."
Critics saw Giuliani's statements as indicative that the president's defense against accusations of working with Russian contacts to help him win the election is rapidly unraveling.
While the word "collusion" does not appear in the federal Code of Laws, the fact that it is illegal for a person or group to "conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States" certainly does.
\u201cRudy Giuliani is purposely exchanging "Conspiracy" for "Collusion" to intertwine a legal term of art with a political one. \n\nRelevant Conspiracy laws Trump may have violated on this issue: \n18 US Code \u00a7 371\n18 US Code \u00a7 2\n18 US Code \u00a7 1030\n18 US Code \u00a7 1343 \n52 US Code \u00a7 30121\u201d— Amee Vanderpool (@Amee Vanderpool) 1532965390
\u201cRudy Giuliani is a former prosecutor. He knows that conspiracy is a crime. If anyone on the @realDonaldTrump campaign took even one overt act in furtherance of the Russian hacking attack on American elections in 2016, that would constitute a conspiracy and a felony.\u201d— Ted Lieu (@Ted Lieu) 1532964226
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team of investigators into the Trump campaign has indicted several Russian nationals and five American Trump associates on charges including Manafort, whose trial regarding allegations that he laundered $30 million on behalf of pro-Russia Ukrainian politicians begins Tuesday.
Giuliani also vaguely questioned Mueller's fitness to lead the investigation, which he took over after Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey last year. Camerota asked Giuliani about a "contentious business relationship" that Trump claims to have had with Mueller--possibly over a membership dispute the two reportedly had regarding one of Trump's golf properties.
"I'm not sure I know what exactly what the conflict is," Giuliani said. "I have a good idea. It's one that would have kept me out of the investigation. ...What it means is I would have had a personal interest, a personal dispute with the President of the United States before the investigation that really precluded me from it."
Bloomberg Opinion editor Timothy L. O'Brien slammed Giuliani's veiled attack on Mueller, for which he offered no evidence, as "McCarthyite."
\u201cGiuliani's on CNN saying that Mueller's "conflicts" pollute his ability to run the Trump-Russia probe--but *won't describe* Mueller's exact conflicts. Giuliani then smears a Mueller staffer, Andrew Weissmann, as a "complete scoundrel" w/o any evidence. Horrid, McCarthyite stuff.\u201d— Tim O'Brien (@Tim O'Brien) 1532952963