Even if Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia, it wouldn’t matter because collusion isn’t illegal, according to the president’s attorney Jay Sekulow.
“For something to be a crime, there has to be a statute that you claim is being violated,” Sekulow told The New Yorker in an interview published over the weekend, which is gaining attention after being mentioned in Axios on Tuesday. “There is not a statute that refers to criminal collusion. There is no crime of collusion.”
While Sekulow is correct that collusion by itself isn’t illegal, a number of other actions could still be prosecutable, according to experts who spoke to Politico. One potential area of illegality could be if a Trump campaign member conspired with the Russians to obtain damaging information on the president’s 2016 election opponent, Hillary Clinton, according to Asha Rangappa, an associate dean at Yale Law School. Another area that could be open to prosecution would be aiding, abetting or advising the Russians on what kinds of information to steal from Democrats, according to Paul Rosenzweig, a former deputy assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the possible collusion has thus far not implicated Trump directly. But the probe could look into whether the president obstructed justice by firing former FBI director James Comey.
John Dowd, another one of Trump’s lawyers, has also in recent days attempted to publicly exonerate the president in advance in light of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn pleading guilty for lying to the FBI as part of the Russia investigation.
Dowd took responsibility for drafting a weekend tweet for Trump which said that “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies.”
The tweet implied that Trump knew about Flynn’s mistruths when the president reportedly asked Comey weeks later whether he could see “his way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” according to Comey’s notes about the encounter. Some have have argued could constitute obstruction of justice.
Yet Dowd told Axios that the president can’t be guilty of obstructing justice, since he’s the highest-ranking lawmaker.