ChrisWeigant.com

A Made-Up, Phony Crime That Never Existed

[ Posted Tuesday, May 1st, 2018 – 16:47 PDT ]

Yesterday I wrote about a politician committing what's known as a Kinsley gaffe (i.e., a politician accidentally telling the truth in public). Today, we have Donald Trump, who seems to have randomly stumbled upon a truth, by accident, with no actual intent whatsoever -- much like a broken clock will tell the right time twice a day, in fact. Of course, even this requires a generous reading of Trump's tweet, but that doesn't make it any less amusing.

Yesterday, the New York Times released a list of almost 50 questions that Special Counsel Bob Mueller's team want to ask the president. Here's how this information was sourced, according to the Times article:

"What efforts were made to reach out to Mr. Flynn about seeking immunity or possible pardon?" Mr. Mueller planned to ask, according to questions read by the special counsel investigators to the president's lawyers, who compiled them into a list. That document was provided to The Times by a person outside Mr. Trump's legal team.

Now, "outside Mr. Trump's legal team" covers a whole lot of ground, but the obvious inference is that the source was somehow close enough to Trump's legal team to get their hands on the document, immediately after which they phoned up the Times to leak the news. That's certainly how it reads, at any rate.

Trump, as he is wont to do, angrily tweeted out about the story this morning. Here's his first tweet:

So disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were "leaked" to the media. No questions on Collusion. Oh, I see... you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed, and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information. Nice!

And here is his second tweet:

It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened! Witch Hunt!

What Trump appears to be claiming is straight-out false, which is also pretty much as usual. If the leak was "disgraceful," that appears to be a reflection on Trump, since one of his team was the source of the leak. But the real whopper is: "No questions on Collusion." In fact, there were many questions about Trump, his aides, and his campaign's coordination with Russia, Vladimir Putin, and agents of the Russian government. It was a subject well-covered by the questions. The article's title was even: "Mueller Has Dozens Of Inquiries For Trump In Broad Quest On Russia Ties And Obstruction," in fact.

But the truly laughable part comes in Trump's next sentence: "Oh, I see... you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed, and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information." Now, getting inside Trump's head is a fool's game at best, but what we can read from that is that Trump is asserting that since there was no "collusion" (according to him), the whole thing (his possible collusion, in other words) is "a made up, phony crime... that never existed."

But this is the part that can be read two ways -- the first, knowing what Trump has said about it in the past, is that Trump is convinced the entire investigation is a "witch hunt" solely for the purpose of bringing him down because the "deep state" hated that fact that he beat Hillary and has been tirelessly working to bring about his downfall ever since. If no crime existed, Trump's thinking goes, then the investigation itself has no real purpose other than to stick it to him in any way possible.

Then there's the "broken clock being right twice a day" way to read Trump's comment. Trump himself loves the word "collusion." He's probably said it tens of thousands of times since he got in office, almost always in the phrase: "no collusion." There was no collusion, Trump tells reporters over and over again, in the hopes that saying it enough times will make the investigation somehow go away. But, as any competent legal analyst could point out (and many have done so, repeatedly, during the same time period), there simply is no crime called "collusion." It doesn't exist. The word is not a legal term, no matter how much Trump may think it is. So, taking this into account, you get a different reading of: "Oh, I see... you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed, and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information." Trump is indeed right, seen a certain way. "Collusion" (in the abstract) is a "made-up, phony crime that never existed," but the person who made it up and tried to convince everyone that "collusion" was a criminal offense was none other than Donald Trump himself. He made it up out of whole cloth, because he doesn't understand the law and apparently no matter how many lawyers he has, they haven't been able to explain this to him yet.

As for the rest of his morning tweets, they're just as wrong as the first bits. The "illegally leaked classified information" was (according to the man who leaked it) neither leaked illegally nor classified. And Trump may be surprised to find out that you can indeed obstruct justice even if a crime hasn't been committed, since obstructing even an investigation into a possible crime also counts as obstruction of justice.

Donald Trump can accidentally get something right (that collusion is a made-up phony crime that never existed), but he still doesn't seem to quite grasp that while there is no federal collusion statute, there are a whole bunch of other laws which could have been broken. There are the Trump organization's numerous financial ties to Russians and Russian banks, for instance, which might not bear close scrutiny due to organized crime laws. There are numerous campaign finance laws that may have been broken, too. And there are indeed federal laws against conspiring with foreign powers to influence American elections. At the top of that particular list is the law against treason, in fact.

Nobody's yet adequately explained the difference between "conspiracy" and "collusion" to Donald Trump. The former is a crime, the latter is not. Conspiracy to commit a crime is itself a crime, even if the crime the conspiracy is planning to commit never actually takes place. It is not a made-up, phony crime, it is quite real. It exists. Many would-be terrorists are currently serving long prison terms in America for merely conspiring (with undercover federal agents) to commit an act of terrorism, even though these acts never actually took place.

Collusion, on the other hand, is just a word in the dictionary. Mine defines it as: "a secret agreement or cooperation for a fraudulent or deceitful purpose." It is not a crime because there is no statute against it. The conspiracy statutes cover the same ground, so one is not necessary. If the purpose is fraud, then there are anti-fraud laws against it, in addition to the conspiracy laws. Any other deceitful purpose is probably covered by other laws, as well.

Trump keeps insisting that he and his campaign are both innocent of collusion, in much the same way Shaggy Rogers might insist that he and the rest of the Scooby Doo gang are likewise innocent of "meddling" (as Rob Lowe so memorably parodied on Saturday Night Live, in fact). But collusion and meddling are both made-up, phony crimes that never existed.

The one thing that's a sure bet in all of this is that Robert Mueller does know the difference between things that are clearly illegal and those that are made-up, phony crimes that never existed. And he's got a minimum of around 50 questions to ask the president about such possible crimes. That assumably doesn't include followup questions to clarify Trump's answers, as well. Nobody knows precisely what Mueller has uncovered from all the people around Trump that he's already flipped. Nobody knows if Mueller has successfully flipped Michael Cohen yet, either (this could have already happened, since Mueller's team is the tightest group in Washington, and rarely leaks a single drop of information to the press beyond public legal filings). Nobody knows what Mueller will be comparing Trump's answers to, in other words. Trump is right in one sense -- the word "collusion" will not be in any of the questions Mueller asks. But that's because it is not a crime. It does not exist, at least outside of Trump's brain. But saying Trump is innocent of a crime that does not exist is not the same thing as saying Trump is innocent of any crime. Personally, I trust Bob Mueller to know the difference, even if Trump still does not.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

19 Comments on “A Made-Up, Phony Crime That Never Existed”

  1. [1] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Beginning on day-1 (the day after the election), I started telling Dems/Libs that 1.) "Getting dirt on your political opponent was NOT Illegal, regardless of the source", and 2.) "Hacking email is de-facto NOT illegal, because if you can get somebody out of U.S. jurisdiction to do it, even though there may be a U.S. law against it, if you can't possibly prosecute anybody for it, it might as well not be illegal.

    In response, I got an avalanche of naive nonsensical ideologically-driven, politically motivated responses that all boiled down to "There's simply no conceivable way that a buffoon like Trump could possibly have defeated our pre-ordained candidate, who led in all the polls, without committing a crime of some sort!"

    So here we are a year-and-a-half later, millions of squandered legal dollars poorer, and the buffoon still sits in the oval office (whenever he's not golfing), having the best laugh of all -(uno, the LAST one).

  2. [2] 
    Kick wrote:

    C. R. Stucki
    1

    "Beginning on day-1 (the day after the election)," you were claiming that hacking emails is not illegal, which is asinine. Getting someone out of U.S. jurisdiction to hack someone else's emails is absolutely illegal and would warrant at minimum a charge such as aiding and abetting.

    Got anything else asinine you'd like to admit to?

  3. [3] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Kick.

    Yeah, it's definitely illegal, probably even immoral and fattening, too.

    How about you tell me about all the prosecutions you've heard about, you know those 13 Russians that Mueller indicted. And after that, list how many convictions he got!

    THEN, and only then, you'll have convinced me that it's illegal.

  4. [4] 
    Kick wrote:

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Benedict Donald's BS tweets are meant for the bleating sheeple and useful idiots to convince them and to muddy the waters. Arguing over whether something is "illegal" is simple arguing semantics.

    LET'S PLAY SEMANTICS

    It is not illegal to "lie"... sounds like a fact.
    Oh, wait! It is illegal to "lie" on SF-86 (I'm looking at you, Jared Kushner). It's also illegal tlie to Congress or an FBI agent... just ask Papadop, Gates, Flynn, etc.; lying can be illegal, and you would be charged with the legal term of art under "perjury" statutes.

    "Collusion" actually is a crime. As a legal term of art, collusion is generally used in antitrust lawsuits where business entities collude to fix prices or defraud consumers or another businesses in violation of federal antitrust laws.

    http://dictionary.law.com/Default.aspx?selected=232

    It is illegal to commit "collusion" in violation of federal law, but the statutes under which one would be charged are for "fraud," "conspiracy," and "RICO."

    Hint 1: It's not a "witch hunt"; it's a "snitch hunt," and several have been found.

    Hint 2: It's RICO.

  5. [5] 
    Kick wrote:

    C. R. Stucki
    3

    Yeah, it's definitely illegal, probably even immoral and fattening, too.

    Glad you're seeing things my way.

    How about you tell me about all the prosecutions you've heard about, you know those 13 Russians that Mueller indicted. And after that, list how many convictions he got!

    Since it is partially public record, I will tell you about one... Yevgeniy Nikulin. I have posted about him on this board many eons ago. After being indicted by the DOJ, he was arrested in Prague and sat in a jail cell for months while being sought for extradition by Russia and the United States, he was extradited to America recently against the wishes of his mother Russia.

    You are on your own now, Stucki. Do some research and you might stumble onto something. :)

  6. [6] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    OK, before I begin answering some comments...

    BREAKING DIFI NEWS!

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2018/05/01/sen-dianne-feinstein-says-she-no-longer-opposes-legal-marijuana/

    She's getting worried about the challenge from her left (De Leon). Primary's only a little over a month away...

    But, cynicism aside, for whatever her reasons, welcome to the club, DiFi. Little late, but whatever...

    -CW

  7. [7] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    C. R. Stucki -

    That's why "conspiracy" is such a big deal. If you plot to commit a crime, you're basically guilty of the same crime, even if it is never committed. If you plot with someone outside the US to commit a criminal act (by US law), then you are also guilty. Period.

    As for [3], let's see how many prosecutions/sentences/guilty pleas Mueller winds up with when he's done. Which isn't going to be anytime soon, so settle in for the long haul.

    Kick [4] -

    Didn't Mueller spend his career on RICO cases? Seems like the right guy for the job...

    -CW

  8. [8] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    CW (6)-
    So DiFi is feeling pressure from DeLeon and has now finally changed her position on marijuana.

    Do you think that if you had written about my petition to get Colin Kaepernick to run a small contribution campaign against DiFi that Kaerpernick or someone else running a small contribution campaign could have put enough pressure on DIFi and/or Deleon to get them to join the club on running a small contribution campaign and isn't it time you joined the club?

    Could that strategy of challenging the Big Money candidates with small contribution candidates and creating an organization to support those candidates work on other candidates?

    And while we are on the subject, how about answering comments from "Watching Arizona" and not skipping my comments when you answer?

  9. [9] 
    TheStig wrote:

    The NYT article is coy about who gave them the 50 Questions, but does indicate the outed questions are, at best, paraphrases ("not verbatim")and in at least some cases, not complete ("condensed"). The Mueller team does not have a history of leaking, but the Trump team does. The Trump legal team is pre-trying the case in the media....preferably on propaganda outfits like Fox and Friends. This latest "dropped shoe" has a distinct whiff of Giuliani about it. Bold, but risky, as it might be construed as flirting with obstruction of justice. If all you have is lemons, make lemonade.

  10. [10] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    CW

    How do you define "plot"? Sounds like that could well equate to "discuss', "talk about", etc., right?
    Does the 1st ammendment specify speech to be "free" only when it's not about getting dirt on your political opponent, or hacking his email???

    Next you're gonna tell me that if I tell the guy next to me in the bar that I'd like to rape the current Hollywood sex goddess, that I'm guilty even if I don't do it!

    I doubt that.

  11. [11] 
    Paula wrote:

    [9] TS: We now know that back in March Mueller and Blotus's lawyers had a "tense" meeting about Blotus sitting for questions and Mueller said he COULD and MIGHT subpoena POTUS and it was after that meeting that Dowd resigned. I don't know if it was then or after that Mueller provided a list - or lists - of areas about which they'll question Blotus, from which Jay Sekulow created the 49 questions.

    According to the Washington Post, the questions weren't presented in those words at all:

    Mueller’s team agreed to provide the president’s lawyers with more specific information about the subjects that prosecutors wished to discuss with the president. With those details in hand, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow compiled a list of 49 questions that the team believed the president would be asked, according to three of the four people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly . . .

    After investigators laid out 16 specific subjects they wanted to review with the president and added a few topics within each one, Sekulow broke the queries down into 49 separate questions, according to people familiar with the process.

    https://www.salon.com/2018/05/02/robert-muellers-questions-for-donald-trump-who-wrote-them-who-leaked-them-what-do-they-tell-us/

    People are still speculating about who actually leaked the questions but it wasn't Mueller. This article ends with the belief that Blotus leaked them.

  12. [12] 
    Paula wrote:
  13. [13] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Paula-11

    Thanks for the link! I still find the strategy very Giuliani (he knows Mueller well and served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York) but Jay Sekulow's TV smarts would serve very well in the crafting of the paraphrases served up as tasty and easily digested soundbites for Fox and circulated forever on YouTube.

  14. [14] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    CR [10]: Does the 1st amendment specify speech to be "free" only when it's not about getting dirt on your political opponent, or hacking his email?

    Oh, come on. You know better than that. Think about it: if the Trump Campaign knew that Russia was about to commit a crime (say releasing stolen emails to the internet), and didn't report it to the Feds, that's a crime in itself. If they used this inside information to coordinate the campaign's response ahead of time, that's a crime. If any of his people coordinated this with the Russians, that's a huge crime. And if Trump knew anything about it himself, he's a criminal too.

    Now ask yourself: do you really want to bet that 19 of Trump's top campaign aides, including his son, son-in-law, and Campaign Manager, had contact with Russian intelligence operatives, and Trump never knew about it at all? Do ya feel lucky?

  15. [15] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Balty [14]

    Let’s also not forget that phone records from Donny Jr. show him making calls to an unknown cell phone number immediately following his phone calls with the Russian attorney and just prior to his meeting with her at Trump Tower. House Republicans refused to issue a subpoena to find out exactly who the cell phone belongs to, but it is believed to be one of Trump’s private cell phones. Nothing better than an investigation that refuses to investigate anything that might make the subject of said “investigation” look bad!

    Paul Ryan warned today that if Republicans lose the House, there will be nothing to prevent Congress from actually holding the administration accountable for their actions via the issuing of subpoenas. Basically admitting that Republicans have refused to do their duty and have in fact actively permitted this administration to violate the law and rules for their own benefits.

  16. [16] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Balthy

    Sorry, I don't believe a single one of those things is a "crime", but even if there is statutory verbiage somewhere attempting to make such things a "crime", if they are all unenforceable, what difference does it make?

    Tell you what. I hereby confess publicly to knowing that the Russians were about to release stolen emails to the internet, and failing to report it to the feds. Please, first chance you get, kindly rat me out. Call Mueller, call the FBI, call the CIA, call whomever you like. I promise to let you know the moment those "feds" come to get me.

  17. [17] 
    Paula wrote:

    [15] Listen: Basically admitting that Republicans have refused to do their duty and have in fact actively permitted this administration to violate the law and rules for their own benefits.

    Yep.

  18. [18] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    [16] I hereby confess publicly to knowing that the Russians were about to release stolen emails to the internet

    That's the part that you're missing: the rules are different for an active presidential nominee than they are for you and me. The campaign finance laws were promulgated by both sides, and it's too late to complain that they aren't lax enough.

    As for enforcement, I'll just quote LWYH at [15]: if Republicans lose the House, there will be nothing to prevent Congress from actually holding the administration accountable.

  19. [19] 
    Kick wrote:

    C. R. Stucki
    10

    Next you're gonna tell me that if I tell the guy next to me in the bar that I'd like to rape the current Hollywood sex goddess, that I'm guilty even if I don't do it!

    Another straw man argument proving nothing, Stucki.

    If the "sex goddess" you talked about was subsequently raped yet it was discovered you had over 70 contacts with her while claiming to have had zero, I can assure you that you'd be a target of the investigation into the crime.

    The Supreme Court ruled unanimously almost a century ago that it was not a violation of their First Amendment rights to be prosecuted under espionage laws for those Americans who chose to "speak freely" with foreign adversaries of the United States, Schenck v. United States.

    Come on, Stucki, there are limitations to every single one of our freedoms... you know that, right?

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