Having crafted a legal defense around explicitly not colluding with Russia, Donald Trump has now basically accepted what everyone on the planet knows to be true: that he did in fact, collude with Russia in the 2016 election.
But guess what? According to Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani and now himself, collusion is not a crime so it doesn't matter!
“I have been sitting here looking in the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime,” Giuliani said Monday morning on Fox & Friends. Later. Then on CNN’s New Day, he made the following claim:
“I don’t even know if that’s a crime, colluding about Russians,” he said. “You start analyzing the crime - the hacking is the crime. The president didn’t hack. He didn’t pay them for hacking.”
Trump then took to Twitter this morning to follow up this latest line of defense:
There is no other way to interpret this other than it being an explicit admission that Trump did indeed collude with Russia. From their statements, it is clear that Giuliani and Trump have now basically accepted that the evidence for the president working with Russia to undermine the election is overwhelming and undeniable, that he knew about it, lied about it, and tried to cover it up. They are now attempting to move the goal posts after their first line of defense has completely fallen apart. Giuliani idiotically even confessed to more meetings with Russia during 2016, giving the Mueller probe even more material proving Trump attempted to work with a foreign government to win the presidential election.
The notion that "collusion is not a crime" is also irrelevant. As Bob Cesca wrote yesterday, "the criminal statute isn’t literally called collusion," and Mueller may well find that the Trump campaign team committed crimes falling under the US legal code, like conspiracy to defraud the United States. As Vox noted today, "Working with a foreign power to sway an election would almost certainly qualify under that statute." The Trump legal team would do well to remember that federal criminal law, covers anyone who “aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures” a crime. This means, for example, that the president's calls for Russia to hack Hillary Clinton's emails could well constitute "aiding and abetting".
The Justice Department summarizes what must be proved legally to convict someone of aiding and abetting (via Bloomberg):
- That the accused had specific intent to facilitate the commission of a crime by another;
- That the accused had the requisite intent of the underlying substantive offense;
- That the accused assisted or participated in the commission of the underlying substantive offense; and
- That someone committed the underlying offense.
Check, check, check, and check. On July 27, 2016, Trump said this: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing." “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” Many on the right have written this off as a joke, but judge for yourself how serious Trump was being: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-b71f2eYdTc Unfortunately for Trump, his legal team appears to be following a disastrous strategy, crafted by Rudy Giuliani, that consists of:
- Confessing to all the crimes Trump has committed on live television.
- Taking back everything the next day and claiming you didn't say what you said.
- Making up a crime that the president isn't being charged with and claiming innocence.
- Hoping no one notices and continuing to accidentally confess to more crimes.
This is creating the distinct impression that Trump is a) guilty, and b) completely incompetent. In fact it is hard to see how his defense could get any worse. Given we now know without a shadow of a doubt that Trump knowingly colluded with Russia during the 2016 election, we now have to wait for the Mueller probe to end to see what specific crimes were committed. Of course we could know much earlier given Trump and Giuliani have shown a bizarre penchant for publicly confessing to them.