In what may be one of the largest reversals of the Trump Administration, President Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, admitted that it is possible that there was collusion between some members of the Trump campaign and the Russian government. While Giuliani denies that his position on collusion has changed, eight months ago he called the idea of Russian collusion “fake news.” Mr. Giuliani continues to deny that Donald Trump colluded with Russia in any way that broke the law.
Giuliani’s most recent comments came in an interview with CNN on Wednesday when he told Chris Cuomo, “I never said there was no collusion between the campaign. Or between people in the campaign. I have no idea.”
“I said the President of the United States,” Giuliani added. “There is not a single bit of evidence the President of the United States committed the only crime you can commit here, conspiring with the Russians to hack the DNC.”
When Cuomo asked if sharing polling data with the Russians would have constituted collusion, Giuliani answered, “Donald Trump wasn't giving polling data to anyone. He did not know about it until it was revealed a few weeks ago in an article.”
The Trump campaign’s position on collusion has evolved over the past few years. Initially, Team Trump issued specific denials that any collusion occurred between members of the campaign and the Russians, but those denials have been walked back and limited in subsequent public statements after numerous contacts were revealed. In November 2016, Hope Hicks responded to statement by Vladimir Putin’s spokesman that claimed that Russian experts had been in contact with Trump’s campaign staff by saying, “It never happened. There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.”
In February 2017, President Trump said, I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.” He added, “How many times do I have to answer this question? Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia.”
At the same time, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “This is a nonstory because to the best of our knowledge, no contacts took place, so it’s hard to make a comment on something that never happened.”
In March 2017, Donald Trump, Jr. said, “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.”
Yet in July 2017, details of a pre-planned meeting at Trump Tower with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016 were leaked. Initially, Trump, Jr. claimed that the meeting was about adoption and said that “ it was not a campaign issue at that time and there was no follow-up.”
The next day that claim evolved as well when Trump, Jr. admitted, “The woman [Veselnitskaya] stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”
In May 2018, Rudy Giuliani appeared on The Sean Hannity Show and said, “Russian collusion is total fake news.” He added, “Mueller owes us a report saying Russian collusion means nothing. It didn’t happen.”
Since the interview with Hannity, Giuliani’s claim has evolved as well. In July 2018, he echoed similar claims from other Trump Administration officials, telling CNN that “collusion is not a crime.” While it’s true that there is no legal definition of “collusion,” specific charges that could relate to collusion include conspiracy, fraud, or receiving stolen information such as the hacked data from the DNC.
While it isn’t clear that anyone in the Trump campaign committed a crime, it is clear that the once-strong denials of any contact at all between Russians and the campaign have been proven false and the denials from Team Trump are getting weaker. The Trump Administration and the president’s lawyers continue to deny that Donald Trump had any contacts with the Russians, but the new evolution on collusion by Mr. Giuliani leaves open the possibility that other members of the Trump campaign could have had illegal contacts with the Russian government, either with or without the president’s knowledge.
The continual evolution on Russia along with the evidence that early statements were not true provides ample reason that the Mueller investigation should be continued. It’s possible that no laws were broken and it is also possible that the president was unaware if there was illegal activity on his behalf by members of his campaign. However, the constant evolution of the story being told by Team Trump makes the president look like he has something to hide, even if he does not. The bottom line is that the American people have the right to know if members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government.
Originally published on The Resurgent