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Is collusion illegal, a crime? Lawyers say Giuliani’s comments a ‘red herring’

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Rudy Giuliani
Rudy
Giuliani on Monday claimed collusion is not a crime when speaking
about the Mueller investigation.

Leah
Millis/Reuters


  • Rudy Giuliani on Monday claimed collusion is not a
    crime in connection with the investigation into Russian
    election interference in 2016.
  • But experts say his comments were
    misleading. 
  • Conservative media figures have made
    similar cases regarding collusion
    in the past as
    well.
  • Collusion is not a legal term, but the term could be
    used to describe certain interactions between a presidential
    campaign and a foreign government that are illegal under
    existing statutes. 

Rudy Giuliani, the attorney for President Donald Trump, claimed
Monday that collusion is “not a crime,” in relation to
investigations into Russian election interference and whether any
Trump associates colluded with Russian officials to try to tip
the scales in Trump’s favor.

Experts say his comments are misleading and miss the larger point
of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

“I have been sitting here looking in the federal code trying to
find collusion as a crime,” Giuliani said during a “Fox &
Friends” interview. “Collusion is not a crime.”

“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,” he said during a subsequent interview with CNN.

Trump has long maintained there was “no collusion” between the
Kremlin and his campaign. But Giuliani went further, seemingly
contending that it wouldn’t be illegal in any case,
echoing similar
cases on collusion
 from conservative media figures in
the past.

‘It’s a red herring by Giuliani’

“Collusion” is not explicitly cited in US legal code. But certain
interactions between a presidential campaign and a foreign
government could be illegal under existing statutes, experts say.

“It’s a red herring by Giuliani,” Bradley P. Moss, a Washington,
DC-based lawyer specializing in national security, told Business
Insider.

He noted that the term “collusion” doesn’t appear in the memo
from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointing Mueller as
special counsel.

“Mueller isn’t investigating ‘collusion.’ He is investigating
possible coordination between the campaign and the Russians,
particularly any actual crimes committed in the context of that
coordination,” Moss said. 

Moss said that conspiracy to defraud the US is a crime, under
18 USC
371.

“Underlying offenses would likely be tied up in criminal
provisions regarding campaign finance laws or computer hacking.
For the conspiracy charge to succeed, it is not required that
every participant in the conspiracy play the same substantive
role,” he said.

Alex Whiting, a law professor at Harvard and former federal
prosecutor, told Business Insider that “there is no crime of
‘collusion’ but as Giuliani well knows there are plenty of
potential crimes within the act of collusion.”

“Russian companies and individuals have been charged with
conspiracy to defraud the United States as a result of their
alleged acts of election interference and hacking and
distribution of emails,” Whiting added. “If American citizens
knowingly assisted these efforts, which could be described as
‘collusion,’ they could also be charged with conspiracy to
defraud the United States.”

Whiting also said there are potential campaign violations that
could be charged, “in particular prohibitions on foreign
contributions to campaigns, if it were discovered that Americans
‘colluded’ with Russians to interfere with the campaign.”

Asha Rangappa, senior lecturer at
the 
Jackson Institute for Global
Affairs at Yale University
and
 former FBI special agent, expressed similar
sentiments on Monday in an appearance on CNN and via
Twitter.

“Conspiracy and aiding and abetting are forms of collusion
that are indeed a crime. And even if there are some acts of
collusion that don’t meet a criminal definition, ‘colluding about
the Russians’ IS STILL A PROBLEM,” she said.

 

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