“If you got the hacked information from the Russians here at CNN and you played it,” Rudy Giuliani asks Alisyn Camerota, “would you be in jeopardy of going to jail?” That’s … an interesting theoretical argument coming from Donald Trump’s personal attorney, but it’s not exactly a confidence-builder in his main argument of the day, which is that Robert Mueller hasn’t come up with diddly-squat and needs to pack up his special-counsel probe:
Giuliani: "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” pic.twitter.com/GTnUxXBeTL
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) July 30, 2018
Asked about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s upcoming trial, Giuliani told CNN “New Day” co-anchor Alisyn Camerota that Manafort “was not involved with intimate business relationships with Donald Trump.”
“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,” Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, continued. “You start analyzing the crime — the hacking is the crime. … The President didn’t hack.”
Earlier in the morning, Giuliani made the same argument on Fox & Friends:
"I have been sitting here looking in the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime. Collusion is not a crime." 👀 pic.twitter.com/fD1MdS6T29
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 30, 2018
Others have been making this same argument for almost as long as Donald Trump has been president, and for good reason. It might make for a good legal argument, within some limits, but it’s a terrible political argument. Giuliani appears to be hinting that the Trump campaign did play footsie with the Russians knowingly, especially in the way he frames the question to Camerota, but that it’s not a crime to have done so. That’s a far cry from the complete denials issued by Trump and his associates all along.
Even the legal argument only goes so far, CNN responds. Their article notes that this was asked and answered already by one of Donald Trump’s bêtes noires in a town hall that they hosted:
At a CNN town hall in April, former FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump fired, said collusion “is not actually a thing that exists under the federal laws of the United States.”
Instead, Comey continued, the question is whether any Americans conspired with a foreign government to commit crimes against the US, which is a crime.
However, Giuliani isn’t saying that, either. He’s posing the theoretical involving the fruits of hacking separately from the campaign and/or CNN. If CNN participated in the hacking conspiracy to get those documents, as in Giuliani’s hypothetical, then they certainly could be prosecuted for it. Giuliani’s proposing — theoretically, anyway — that simply using the materials after the hacking doesn’t constitute collusion or any other crime, even if the user knows the material came from an illegal hack.
But that’s a silly hypothetical anyway. We know that’s not a crime, because every media outlet in the US did exactly that with the DNC and John Podesta e-mails, including CNN. The question has been whether the Trump campaign knowingly coordinated with Russian intelligence to disseminate the materials, or to help get them in the first place. So far there hasn’t been a scintilla of evidence made public showing either, but Giuliani’s sudden interest in making a public argument that “collusion” isn’t illegal at least suggests that something may be coming to change that equation, and Giuliani wants to get ahead of it.
At the same time, Giuliani tells Axios that Robert Mueller should wrap things up now:
Rudy Giuliani told me that President Trump is fed up with Robert Mueller and wants him to “put up or shut up.”
What he’s saying: “Why don’t you write a report and show us what you have, because they don’t have a goddamn thing. It’s like a guy playing poker. He’s bluffing and he’s only got a pair of twos.” …
Giuliani said Trump’s view is: “Enough is enough.” Asked whether he meant Trump was considering firing Mueller, Giuliani replied: “No. No. He’s thinking: ‘Hey, the guy should get this over now.'”
Perhaps. The general drift of the cases in the Russia-collusion probe seems to indicate that collusion itself is a bust, or at least it did until Giuliani’s weird PR push today. Mueller cut Cohen loose months ago, turned over the Russian indictments to the Department of Justice, and won’t make a collusion case in Paul Manafort’s upcoming trials. Mueller is running out of runway on which to build a case against Trump on collusion, although obstruction of justice still remains as a possibility, albeit a remote one.
But why not stick with those arguments rather than “collusion is not a crime”? Either Giuliani is the world’s worst PR flack, or something grim is coming down the pike.