Tuesday, July 31, 2018

"Collusion Isn't A Crime"

The Trump administration has now informed us of a new explanation regarding the ongoing question of whether the President colluded with Russia during the campaign to get Trump elected.

"I have been sitting here looking in the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime. Collusion is not a crime."
Rudy Giuliani, Fox & Friends, July 30, 2018

This is an idea that has been floated before and a very dangerous one.  Fox news host Neil Jarrett presented this idea just a couple of months ago.  You can even find a log of the developing nature of this idea.

It's a game of semantics.  That because there is no specific crime that mentions the exact word "collusion," the action itself is not criminal.   It looks past the actions and just to the words themselves.  And you have to, because if you look at the actions, the actions could be a crime under several different legal theories.  They could violate the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, which makes foreign nationals spending money to influence a federal election and any action by a United States citizen to coordinate, conspire or assist in that spending, a crime.  The actions could violate the laws against fraud, which makes it a federal crime to conspire with anyone, including a foreign government, to deprive another of the intagible right of honest services - including an honest election.  It could fall as a crime under laws against public corruption or the general anti-coercion federal election law.  Even if you look just at synonyms of collusion, you get conspiracy which is a crime.  It may not be treason, but it is very likely still a crime.

And beyond treason or a crime, collusion could very likely still fall under the "high crimes and misdemeanors" portion of impeachable offenses.  Impeachments for high crimes and misdemeanors have occurred for chronic intoxication, tax evasion, conspiracy to solicit a bribe, and making false statements to a grand jury.  The Presidential impeachments for high crimes and misdemeanors have occurred for violation of the tenure act, perjury, and perjury and obstruction of justice.  With President Trump at 3,251 false or misleading claims in just 497 days (as of May 31, 2018 according to the Washington Post), this may be a more pressing concern.

What makes this even more fascinating is the continued development of the Trump administration's answer.  The Washington Post has documented the continued answer, as such:

1. November 2016: No communications happened, period.
Hope Hicks - "It never happened.  There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign."

2. February 2017: There were no communications, "to the best of our knowledge."
Sarah Huckabee Sanders -  "This is a non-story because, to the best of our knowledge, no contacts took place."

3. March 2017: There were communications, but no planned meetings with Russians
Donald Trump, Jr. - "Did I meet with people that were Russian?  I'm sure, I'm sure I did. ... But none that were set up.  None that I can think of at the moment.  And certainly none that I was representing the campaign in any way, shape or form."

4. July 8, 2017: There was a planned meeting at Trump Tower, but it was "primarily" about adoption and not the campaign
Donald Trump, Jr. - "We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at that time and there was no follow-up."

5. July 9, 2017: The meeting was planned to discuss the campaign, but the information exchanged wasn't "meaningful."
Donald Trump, Jr. - "No details or supporting information was provided or even offered.  It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information."

6. December 2017: Collusion isn't even a crime (our first indication)
President Trump - "There is no collusion, and even if there was, it's not a crime."
Jay Sekulow - "For something to be a crime, there has to be a statute that you claim is being violated.  There is not a statute that refers to criminal collusion.  There is no crime of collusion."

7. May 16, 2018: Even if meaningful information were obtained, it wasn't used.
Rudy Giuliani - "And even if it comes from a Russian, or a German, or an American, it doesn't matter.  And they never used it, is the main thing.  They never used it.  They rejected it.  If there was collusion with the Russians, they would have used it."

8. May 19, 2018: There was a *second* planned meeting about foreign help in the election, but nothing came of it either.
Alan Futerfas, Trump Jr.'s attorney - "They pitched Mr. Trump Jr. on a social media platform or marketing strategy.  He was not interested, and that was the end of it."

9. July 16, 2018: Trump couldn't collude, because Trump didn't even know Putin.
President Trump- "There was no collusion.  I didn't know the president.  There was nobody to collude with."

10. July 30, 2018: Collusion isn't a crime, and Trump wasn't physically at the Trump Tower meeting
Rudy Giuliani - "I have been sitting here looking in the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime. Collusion is not a crime."

I highly recommend the Washington Post article.   Each of the quotes above is sourced, along with other commentary.

When children keep changing the details of their story, we know they are lying and have not yet revealed the full truth.  The trail above reads like a children's story trying to wiggle out of punishment. 

"I wasn't at Johnny's house."
"OK, I was at Johnny's house, but it was only for a couple of minutes."

"OK, I was there for a couple of hours, but we didn't do anything"

"OK, we did play video games, like I was not supposed to but..."

We're now at the equivalent part where the child generally goes "But Billy's parents let him do it".  "I didn't do anything wrong."

I don't know about you, but that never worked for me, and I don't think it is going to work here.  Maybe I'm wrong; after all, I've understood less and less of this as it has gone along.  Or maybe I'm just optimistically naive.  I still don't think this will work.  We have to see past it, right?

At some point, the truth will out?

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