Appearing on CNN Wednesday evening, Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City who now serves as President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, told host Andrew Cuomo that he’s now unsure of whether people inside Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russia or not to help win the election for his client.
Giuliani seems to have pivoted on what was a once truism according to Trump himself: that there was no collusion at all within the campaign, and that the Russia investigation looking into it has been a “total witch hunt.”
Trump’s lawyer explained that he had never suggested that collusion didn’t exist as a possibility on the campaign trail, according to reporting from CNN.
“I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or people in the campaign,” Giuliani said.
Rather, Giuliani said that he’s only been able to speak on behalf of the president himself.
“I said the President of the United States. 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.”
Giuliani said to Cuomo he was unable to account for every member of the Trump campaign team’s innocence, or even if the campaign itself was being run in conjunction with the Kremlin. Specifically, Giuliani added that he could not ascertain whether former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had sought Russia’s help during the election season.
Rudy Giuliani Says Trump Wasn't Involved In Collusion, But His Campaign May Have Been https://t.co/HW8XjG08pX— BuzzFeed (@BuzzFeed) January 17, 2019
The president has for a long while now maintained that there was no collusion going on between himself and members of his campaign. On no less than 90 occasions on Twitter, in fact, has Trump said there was “no collusion” between him, his campaign, or Russia, according to a report from Time.
But Trump’s defense, made by him and by members of his administration, has evolved many times over the past couple of years. Vice President Mike Pence, for example, in the early months of Trump’s presidency, maintained that there was absolutely no foreign influence on the campaign trail, per a report from the Washington Post.
“[A]ll the contact by the Trump campaign and associates was with the American people. We were fully engaged with taking his message to make America great again all across this country,” Pence said in an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace.
“This is all a distraction,” Pence added, “and it’s all part of a narrative to delegitimize the election and to question the legitimacy of this presidency.”
Yet in the summer of 2018, Giuliani made comments that suggested the strategy was shifting away from denying collusion happened, to suggesting that collusion isn’t illegal — a notion some legal experts disagree with.
“I’ve been sitting here looking at the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime. Collusion is not a crime,” Giuliani said in an interview on Fox and Friends.
Peter Zeidenberg, a former deputy special counsel on a case involving Scooter Libby, the former Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, disagreed at that time about Giuliani’s assertions.
“Literally that’s true: there is no crime of collusion,” Zeidenberg said.
“But I don’t know how you collude with Russia without conspiring to do so and I think it’s pretty clear that [special counsel Robert] Mueller believes conspiracy with those working to interfere with the election is a crime.”