In recent weeks, President Donald Trump’s defenders have been pushing a curious new line: Even if Trump and his presidential campaign colluded with Russia’s secret operation to subvert the 2016 campaign, that would not be illegal. Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume made this argument during a panel Sunday, saying, “Collusion, while it obviously would be alarming and highly inappropriate for the Trump campaign…it’s not a crime.” He added, “Can anyone identify the crime?”
Well, yes, somebody can. Ten lawyers queried, including academics, former prosecutors, and defense attorneys familiar with federal election and hacking laws, cite more than a dozen federal statutes that prosecutors could use to charge someone who collaborated with Russian intelligence to influence the 2016 election.
“There is a whole plethora of areas of potential criminal liability,” says Tor Ekeland, a defense attorney who has represented clients in high-profile hacking cases in federal and New York courts. “To say that there is none is just willful ignorance in the service of propaganda.”
What charges special counsel Robert Mueller might eventually level depends on specific circumstances and evidence collected. But laws against abetting or conspiring to commit computer fraud or identity theft and against soliciting campaign aid from foreign nationals offer two potential areas under which prosecutors could seek indictments, the lawyers say. Prosecutors also could use broader federal statutes related to honest services fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to bring charges against anyone who colluded, according to the attorneys.
Sorry Fox News, but collusion with a foreign power waging cyberwar on America *is* a crime. Happy to itemize the statutes upon your request.— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) June 28, 2017
(2) Fox News hosts have recently begun to make the argument on-air that colluding with a foreign power under these circumstances is *legal*.— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) June 28, 2017