President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said in a pair of interviews on Monday morning that he was at a loss for how colluding with the Russians would be categorized as a crime. Instead, he shifted the conversation by noting that the president did not “pay them for hacking,” which he said was the real offense.
Speaking on the “Fox & Friends” morning show, Giuliani said he had “been sitting here looking in the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime.”
“Collusion is not a crime,” he said, adding that the president is “absolutely innocent.”
Later, in a discussion with CNN’s “New Day,” Giuliani said that if you “start analyzing the crime, the hacking is the crime.”
“The president didn’t hack,” Giuliani said. “He didn’t pay them for hacking. If you got the hacked information from the Russians here at CNN and you played it, would you be in jeopardy of going to jail? Of course not.”
Giuliani’s comments came a day after Trump used Twitter to attack Robert Mueller, the special counsel tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Trump said there was “No Collusion!” and described Mueller’s investigation as a “rigged witch hunt” and “an illegal Scam!”
The remarks also followed CNN’s Thursday report that Trump’s former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen was willing to tell Mueller that Trump approved the controversial June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Russians and top Trump campaign officials, which would contradict past denials from Trump.
Cohen is the focus of a criminal investigation, and his attorney recently released an audiotape Cohen made in September 2016 in which he and Trump discussed buying the rights to the story of a former Playboy model who says she had an affair with Trump years ago.
According to CNN, Cohen alleges that he was present, along with others, when Trump was informed of the Russians’ offer of dirt on Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, and that the president signed off on the idea to meet with them. CNN’s sources said Cohen did not have hard evidence to back up his claims. Cohen last year testified to two congressional committees on Russian election interference and did not say Trump had advance knowledge of the meeting, a source told CNN.
During his Monday interviews, Giuliani continued to question Cohen’s credibility and said the president “did not participate” in the meeting with the Russians.
Giuliani told CNN he was “happy to tell” Mueller that Trump “wasn’t at the meeting.” Giuliani added that other people who could corroborate Cohen’s account would not do so, and he charged that Cohen was making these claims now because he feels the criminal investigation closing in on him.
Of Giuliani’s claim that collusion is not a crime, Jed Shugerman, a Fordham University law professor, wrote in Slate that while Trump’s approval of the meeting would not in and of itself be incriminating, subsequent conduct could point to a conspiracy to defraud the US or obstruction of justice, and that any such conduct could be prosecuted.