Changing His Defense, Donald Trump Asserts “Collusion Is Not A Crime”
On Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump echoed the defense of his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani by tweeting that “Collusion is not a crime” in response to accusations that he colluded with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election.
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
This is not the first time the president has made the assertion. In December 2017, Trump told the New York Times that “there is no collusion, and even if there was, it’s not a crime.” The president’s defense has begun to double down on this argument this week. Giuliani reiterated the point on airings of both Fox’s Fox and Friends and CNN’s New Day on Monday.
“Colluding about Russians ― I’m not sure that’s even a crime,” he told CNN. “The hacking is the crime. The president didn’t hack.”
Critics however argue that this line of defense is simply a matter of semantics made to appeal to the public. “It’s just a word choice,” said Julie O’Sullivan, a criminal law professor at Georgetown University. “I’m sure nobody in the Justice Department has ever investigated collusion, but they’ve certainly investigated conspiracy.
According to CNN legal analyst, Carrie Cordero, the fact that collusion is not a crime “in the literal sense,” is unimportant compared to the number of related criminal violations of election law, computer hacking, false statements and wire fraud it refers to.
In a 2017 interview with Politico, John Dean, the White House counsel under President Richard Nixon who served four months in prison for his role in the Watergate scandal, described how “collusion” could violate the law:
“Collusion is the descriptive word the news media has settled on to cover many potential illegal actions by the Trump campaign, which could range from aiding and abetting (18 USC 2) to conspiracy per se (18 USC 371) to conspiring to violate several potentially applicable laws like: 18 USC 1030—fraud and related activity in connection with computers; 18 USC 1343—wire fraud; or 52 USC 30121—contributions and donations by foreign nationals. Also, 18 USC 2381—for, contrary to a widespread belief that there must be a declared war, the Justice Department as recently as 2006 indicted for “aid and comfort” to our enemies, the form of collusion better known as treason.”
Some also speculate the claim to be an attempt at further discrediting special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe in the eyes of the public as the word “collusion” has often been used in association with the investigation.