The new argument being made by Donald Trump’s legal team is desperate, but it’s catching fire in Trumpland as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation looks to be kicking into high gear.
RudyGiuliani and the rest of Trump’s apologists are no longer making the claim that the president’s campaign didn’t collude with Russia. Instead, the new talking point is that collusion isn’t a crime.
As Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell tweeted a short time ago, “So he colluded? Got it.”
So he colluded? Got it. https://t.co/LVybN5Liae
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) July 31, 2018
Filling in for Rachel Maddow on Monday night, MSNBC’s Ari Melber took it a step further and blasted Republicans for trying to convince their supporters that “crimes aren’t crimes.”
Melber said the new effort shows that Trump’s legal team believes Mueller is on the verge of dropping a legal bomb on them.
— PoliticusUSA (@politicususa) July 31, 2018
What Melber said likely sent chills through the White House:
What we’re seeing right now amidst some of this “collusion is not a crime” hysteria is the people closest to this, people like Rudy Giuliani and the president himself, they’re not acting like Mueller is wrapping this up. They’re acting like something is about to get much hotter and like it is somehow for some reason important to them to get at least their supporters, at least some people in this nation right now tonight, to believe that crimes are not crimes.
Collusion might not be a federal crime, but conspiracy is
Set aside the fact that, through their new argument, the Trump legal team is essentially admitting that they colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Many observers had come to that conclusion already, but it appears that even those in Trump’s orbit are now admitting it.
But it’s also a diversion. While collusion itself isn’t on the books as a federal crime, conspiracy is. That would include a conspiracy to defraud the United States via election meddling – not to mention potential campaign finance violations.
As Elie Honig of The Daily Beast further elaborated after Rudy Giuliani’s meltdown today, “So if there’s no such thing as collusion, then what are we really talking about? It seems the closest thing to what Giuliani means when he talks about ‘collusion’ is the actual federal crime of conspiracy. One federal statute, 18 U.S.C. § 371, makes it a crime to conspire to commit any other federal crime, and many other statutes carry their own sub-parts that criminalize conspiracy, or attempt, as well as the actual completed crime itself.”
Honig continued: “As with the word ‘collusion,’ people sometimes think a criminal conspiracy needs to be more dramatic than it actually is. People hear ‘conspiracy’ and they think of JFK, Area 51, the moon landing—an evil, secretive plot, a hoax. But don’t misunderstand just how routine, and mundane, a conspiracy can be. As judges instruct criminal juries, a conspiracy is simply any agreement to break the law. That’s it. A conspiracy doesn’t need to be dramatic, or sinister, or clever, or even secretive. It doesn’t even need to be successful.”
As Ari Melber pointed out on Monday, team Trump is essentially playing word games in order to convince enough of the president’s supporters that crimes are not crimes.
The more they play these games, the more desperate and guilty they look.