Jay Sekulow, an attorney for President Donald Trump, falsely claimed on Tuesday that “collusion” is not a crime.
During an interview on ABC News, Sekulow pointed out that former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about his meetings with a Russian professor, but he did not plead guilty to collusion with the Kremlin.
“He was a volunteer with the campaign, he served on one of the committees,” Sekulow told Good Morning America host George Stephanopoulos. “He was involved with individuals that purported to be somehow involved with Russia or Russian government — it’s not clear from the [charging] documents. The end result is the meeting doesn’t take place.”
“So what you had is you had all this conversation about collusion,” he continued. “Remember this, collusion in and of itself — there’s no crime of collusion.”
“Collusion is cooperation and that’s what he was doing with Russians,” Stephanopoulos noted.
Although the word “collusion” does not appear in federal statues, legal experts argue that it is another word for “conspiracy,” which is illegal.
Politifact checked the claim that collusion is not a crime and rated it “mostly false.”
Harvard University law professor John Coates told Politifact that there were multiple laws barring collusion between campaigns and foreign governments.
“Under that statute, it is a federal crime to conspire with anyone, including a foreign government, to ‘deprive another of the intangible right of honest services,’” he explained. “That would include fixing a fraudulent election, in my view, within the plain meaning of the statute.”
University of California, Irvine law professor Rick Hasen said that Trump campaign officials may have also violated anti-conspiracy laws.
“If others participated in the scheme to do this it could be a conspiracy,” Hasen remarked. “Whether you want to call that ‘collusion’ or not seems besides the point.”
Watch the video below from ABC.