Why Did Giuliani’s Exchange With Cuomo Play As A Gaffe When It Wasn’t One?

Why Did Giuliani’s Exchange With Cuomo Play As A Gaffe When It Wasn’t One?

For the last two years, the media has screeched about a new collusion theory on a weekly basis. But this latest exchange wasn't damning for Trump at all.

On Wednesday night, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, appeared on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time. Host Chris Cuomo drilled Giuliani on the possibility that former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, colluded with Russia.

After Giuliani complained about the amount of false reporting surrounding the Russia investigation, Cuomo countered: “False reporting is saying that there has been no suggestion of any kind of collusion between the campaign and any Russians.” Giuliani retorted: “Well, you just misstated my position. I never said there was no collusion between the campaign! Or between people in the campaign.”

Giuliani’s aside “quickly sent the Internet into a tailspin.” Trump’s team is moving the goalposts the Twitterverse charged. Salon reported that Rudy Giuliani dropped Trump’s “no collusion” claim, while yesterday morning CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota claimed “President Trump’s lawyer admits the Trump campaign may have colluded with Russia.” And Wednesday’s New York Times framed Giuliani’s comment as leaving “open the possibility that Trump campaign aides might have coordinated with Russia in its election interference in 2016.”

While Giuliani’s comments to Cuomo did Trump no favors, it is disingenuous in the extreme to cast Trump as the one moving the goalposts. The FBI and DOJ have been targeting Trump since the summer of 2016 and for the last two years, the MSM has screeched about a new or refurbished collusion theory on a weekly basis, with continuing insinuations that this or that indictment or plea will finally take the president down.

Trump has always said that he did not collude with Russia. And as for those on his campaign, the president has maintained that nobody in his campaign had colluded with Russia, “as far as I know.” Cuomo even acknowledged Trump’s caveat during his interview with Giuliani!

Further, former FBI Director James Comey stated in prepared testimony for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that Trump told him “that if there were some ‘satellite’ associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but that he hadn’t done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out that we weren’t investigating him.”

Still Giuliani’s exchange with Cuomo played as a gaffe—but that is only because of the shifting sands beneath the Russia investigation. The probe into Russian collusion is supposedly a criminal investigation and one which Trump critics see as implicating the president in “high crimes and misdemeanors.” However, while Mueller has succeeded in ensnaring several individuals connected to Trump and the Trump campaign, none of the criminal charges involve collusion with Russia.

That is true too for the charges brought against Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair who pleaded guilty to tax and bank fraud, and illegal lobbying. While Mueller did not charge Manafort with a crime related to Russia collusion, a botched redaction of a court filing revealed that Manafort had shared polling data related to the 2016 presidential election with  “a Russian-Ukrainian businessman who the U.S. claims to have links to Russian intelligence.”

It was Cuomo’s questioning of Giuliani about Manafort that led to Giuliani to snip, “You just misstated my position. I never said there was no collusion between the campaign! Or between people in the campaign.”

Of course, Giuliani’s comment was not an admission that Manafort colluded with the Russians, although if Manafort had shared internal polling data with a man linked to Russian intelligence that would be evidence—and the first such evidence—that someone connected to the Trump campaign was working with the Russians to influence the election.

But, if true, that is a political scandal—not a criminal matter implicating President Trump. That matters because the FBI and DOJ should not be playing politics with the criminal justice system. Yet that is exactly what we have seen over the last two-plus years.  Comey’s protestations notwithstanding, when the FBI launched Crossfire Hurricane, the target was Trump and not the four individuals connected to his campaign.  Why else would the FBI keep Trump in the dark about the investigation and the potential that some members of his campaign were foreign agents?

Since then, the Special Counsel has used the vast (and unlimited) resources of the federal government to unearth crimes, albeit ones unrelated to Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.  And the media and the “resistance” have used this ongoing criminal investigation to taint the Trump presidency, even though there is no evidence implicating the president in any wrongdoing.

We now know, though, from Cuomo’s exchange with Giuliani and the press’s response, that the criminal investigation meant nothing; it merely served as the means to politically attack the president.

Margot Cleveland is a senior contributor to The Federalist. Cleveland served nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk to a federal appellate judge and is a former full-time faculty member and current adjunct instructor at the college of business at the University of Notre Dame. The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.
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