President Trump said Tuesday that “collusion is not a crime” — echoing the words of his lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani in a series of media interviews the day before — but also reasserted that there had been “no collusion” between his campaign and Russia.
The president’s comments in a morning tweet appeared designed to address widespread confusion over Giuliani’s intentions during cable television appearances on Monday.
At the outset of an appearance on Fox News, Giuliani said he had been “sitting here looking in the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime. Collusion is not a crime.”
Later, on CNN, he added: “I don’t even know if that’s a crime — colluding with Russians. Hacking is the crime. The president didn’t hack. He didn’t pay for the hacking.”
His comments regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election raised the eyebrows of many observers, who suggested Giuliani was seeking to change the standard for wrongdoing by the president and those around him as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III continues to investigate.
During a call into Fox News later Monday, Giuliani sought to push back against that notion, saying he was making the same point that he had “over and over” that the word “collusion” doesn’t appear in the criminal code.
“My client didn’t do it, and even if he did it, it’s not a crime,” Giuliani said.
Nevertheless, a debate continued on the Tuesday morning cable shows about whether Giuliani was “moving the goal posts.”
In his tweet Tuesday, Trump wrote: “Collusion is not a crime, but that doesn’t matter because there was No Collusion (except by Crooked Hillary and the Democrats)!”
While the word “collusion” is not part of the federal code, legal analysts have noted that other crimes, including conspiracy, could be brought if there is evidence that Trump’s campaign worked with Russia to undermine the presidential election.
“Note to Giuliani: Look it up—Colluding to violate the law is conspiracy,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote on Twitter on Monday, citing a reference in the federal code.
“Obstructing Justice also is criminal,” Blumenthal wrote. “Your client, Trump, is under investigation by the Special Counsel for both. Bombast & bullying won’t make it (or him) go away.”
In addition to possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, Mueller is also looking at whether Trump has tried to obstruct the investigation.
During an appearance on CNN on Tuesday morning, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) expressed exasperation with Giuliani’s media interviews.
“I can’t keep with Rudy Giuliani’s theories of defense,” Durbin said. “They change almost by the hour.”