Giuliani, one of Trump’s attorneys, railed against special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia interference in the election and whether Trump obstructed justice during two TV interviews Monday.
“I have been sitting here looking in the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime,” Giuliani said on “Fox & Friends.” “Collusion is not a crime.”
During an appearance later on CNN, the former New York mayor repeated the assertion.
“Colluding about Russians ― I’m not sure that’s even a crime,” Giuliani told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota. “The hacking is the crime. The president didn’t hack.”
Giuliani’s comments echo similar statements made by other members of the Trump camp, including the president himself.
“I watched [legal pundit] Alan Dershowitz the other day,” Trump told The New York Times in December 2017. “He said, No. 1, there is no collusion, No. 2, collusion is not a crime, but even if it was a crime, there was no collusion. And he said that very strongly... and he has studied this thing very closely.”
That same month, Jay Sekulow, another member of Trump’s legal team, told The New Yorker that “there is no crime of collusion.”
“For something to be a crime, there has to be a statute that you claim is being violated,” Sekulow said. “There is not a statute that refers to criminal collusion.”
Collusion itself is not a federal crime, according to experts. But any Trump cooperation with the Russian government could be tied to multiple criminal violations of election law, computer hacking, false statements and wire fraud.
Even if Trump himself wasn’t personally involved in Russian hacking efforts ― as Giuliani stated ― directing or aiding those efforts in any way could constitute a crime, according to The Washington Post.
John Dean, the White House counsel under President Richard Nixon who served four months in prison for his role in the Watergate scandal, described to Politico in July 2017 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.
Since the outset of the Russia probe, Trump has repeatedly denied colluding with America’s longtime foreign adversary. “There was no collusion,” he has repeatedly said in tweets and at news conferences. He also has denounced the special counsel’s investigation as a “witch hunt.”
By arguing that collusion is not a crime, Giuliani has effectively broadened the attempt to discredit Mueller’s investigation. He previously claimed the president can’t legally be found guilty of obstructing justice.
The collusion comments weren’t the only noteworthy statements Monday from Giuliani, who has built a reputation for bizarre, rambling interviews since joining Trump’s legal team in April.
When asked by CNN’s Camerota about Trump’s tweet Sunday claiming he had a “very nasty & contentious business relationship” with Mueller, Giuliani refused to elaborate.
“That’s up to the president and Mueller to describe ― not part of my legal representation,” Giuliani said.
Camerota pushed back, asking Giuliani to provide facts supporting Trump’s claim that Mueller has conflicts of interest in his role as special counsel.
Trump has “every right to say, ‘OK, you explain it Mueller. Stand up and be a man,’” Giuliani said. “I’m not going to go any further. It’s up to the president to describe it in further detail if he would like to do so ― or if Mueller would like to come out and say why it’s not a conflict, I invite Bob to do it.”
Camerota later asked Giuliani whether he respects Mueller.
“We’ll see,” he answered.
Clarification: This article has been updated to include more of Donald Trump’s statement from December 2017, which initially did not include his attribution of remarks on the legality of collusion to lawyer Alan Dershowitz.