Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani defended Russian interference efforts in the 2016 election on Sunday, claiming that “people had a right to know” what was in former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails and those stolen by Russian hackers from the Democratic National Committee.
Giuliani’s comments came during an interview on Meet the Press, one of several stops he made on the Sunday morning news circuit to defend President Donald Trump following the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian meddling.
In addition to outlining the ways Russia interfered in the election to swing the results in Trump’s favor, including hacking Clinton’s and the DNC’s emails, the report detailed 10 instances involving the president that may have constituted obstruction of justice.
“I wonder if there isn’t an argument that the people had a right to know that information about Hillary Clinton,” Giuliani said. “People had a right to know that Hillary Clinton and the people around her were as dishonest, as deceptive, as duplicitous as they actually are.”
Asked why Trump didn’t simply point out Clinton’s flaws using “honest campaign” methods instead of information stolen by a foreign adversary, Giuliani jumped to Trump’s defense, claiming the president and his associates had only thought about conspiring with the Russians and had never actually followed through.
“Oh my goodness. If someone on the campaign wanted to do something wrong… a lot of people on Hillary Clinton’s campaign wanted to do something wrong,” he said.
“The legal standard that makes it possible [for] us not to be prosecuted for our thoughts is…’Did Trump or anyone from the Trump campaign participate in the dissemination of hacked material?’ And the answer is no,” he continued. “It had already been disseminated.”
He added, “This investigation wasn’t nationwide news, international news for three years because the Russians tried to invade our election. They’ve done that before. We just caught them this time. The real news here is ‘Donald Trump conspired with the Russians to do this,’ making him almost a traitor.”
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) April 21, 2019
In a separate interview with CNN Sunday, Giuliani took things a step further, questioning whether it was “illegal” to take hacked documents from foreign adversaries.
“Any candidate in the whole world in America would take information” detrimental to their opponent, Giuliani said, referring to the Trump Tower meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian officials in June 2016, at which the campaign expected to receive damaging information about Clinton.
Host Jake Tapper cut in, reminding Giuliani that the information to which he was referring to had been offered up by Russia, who was actively engaged in election meddling at the time.
“From a foreign source, a hostile foreign source?” Tapper asked.
“Who say it’s even illegal?” Giuliani responded.
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) April 21, 2019
Mueller’s report, which was made public on Thursday last week, laid out in detail the many ways Russian actors attempted to swing the results of the 2016 election in Trump’s favor, sometimes even offering information to the Trump campaign through emissaries like WikiLeaks, which published some of the hacked information online in the summer of 2016.
The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., was one of those offered stolen information, according to Mueller and previous news reports.
In September 2016, Trump Jr. shared a series of back and forth Twitter messages with WikiLeaks, during which the site shared a password to access an “anti-Trump site putintrump.org that [was] about to launch.” Trump Jr. then used the password to access the site, passing messages about it to the campaign.
“I tried the password and it works,” he wrote in one email.
(Legal experts believe that act alone — accessing a site that was password-protected without permission — may have constituted a crime.)
WikiLeaks also asked Trump Jr. to tweet a link with negative information about Clinton, weeks later, to which he replied that he “had done so” already.
Others linked to the Trump campaign, including former adviser and longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone, may have also had contact with WikiLeaks during the campaign. Details of those alleged interactions remain a mystery, as most of the passages in the report on that topic have been redacted. Stone faces trial later this year on charges of obstruction, witness tampering, and lying to investigators.
Although the White House has claimed Mueller’s report totally exonerates the president on charges of “collusion,” the special counsel did not actually set out to investigate those allegations. Instead, as outlined in the report, Mueller attempted to find concrete evidence of criminal coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Ultimately, he was unable to prove that coordination existed.
“We understood coordination to require an agreement-tacit or express — between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference. That requires more than the two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other’s actions or interests,” the special counsel wrote. “We applied the term coordination in that sense when stating in the report that the investigation did not establish that the Trump Campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
However, Mueller did not come to a conclusion on allegations Trump obstructed justice during the course of the investigation. Though he laid out in great detail the 10 instances which may have constituted interference, he left it up to Congress to take the next step.
“With respect to whether the President can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under Article II of the Constitution, we concluded that Congress has the authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice,” Mueller wrote.