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The evolution of Trump's collusion denials

Donald Trump points finger at himself.
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

President Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani told CNN’s Chris Cuomo Wednesday night that he "never said there was no collusion" between members of the Trump campaign and Russia, and that "if the collusion happened, it happened a long time ago."

Why it matters: Trump and his team have been moving the goalposts on questions of collusion with Russia — whether it happened, when it happened, whether it's even illegal, who did it — ever since the allegations first emerged.

Timeline

  • Nov. 11, 2016: Hope Hicks denies a report that Russian experts were in contact with the Trump campaign: “It never happened. There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.”
  • Dec. 18, 2016: Kellyanne Conway denies that there was any contact between the campaign and Russians: "Those conversations never happened. I hear people saying it like it’s a fact on television. That is just not only inaccurate and false, but it’s dangerous.”
  • Feb. 16, 2017: Trump says during a press conference, "I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge no person that I deal with does."
  • March 2017: In an interview with the New York Times, Donald Trump Jr. says, “Did I meet with people that were Russian? I’m sure, I’m sure I did. ... But none that were set up. None that I can think of at the moment.”
  • July 8, 2017: Trump Jr. responds to a Times report about the now-infamous June Trump Tower meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer: “We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at that time and there was no follow-up."
  • July 9, 2017: Trump Jr. issues a second statement, after it's revealed that he set up the meeting after being promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton. "Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information."
  • Dec. 28, 2017: Trump says in an interview with the Times, “There is no collusion, and even if there was, it’s not a crime.”
  • July 29, 2018: Giuliani says on Fox News, "When I say the Trump campaign, I mean the upper levels of the Trump campaign. I have no reason to believe anybody else [colluded]. The only ones I checked with obviously are the top four or five people.”
  • May 16, 2018: Giuliani tells Fox News' Laura Ingraham that looking for political "dirt" is a common practice, but that the important thing is that the campaign didn't use it: “Even if it comes from a Russian, or a German, or an American, it doesn’t matter. And they never used it, is the main thing. They never used it. They rejected it."
  • July 30, 2018: Giuliani doubles down on collusion not being a crime: "I don't even know if that's a crime, colluding with Russians. Hacking is the crime. The president didn't hack! He didn't pay for the hacking."
  • Dec. 16, 2018: Giuliani addresses reports that Michael Cohen has given special counsel Robert Mueller "valuable information" about possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia: "I have no idea what they're talking about. I know that collusion is not a crime. It was over with by the time of the election.”
  • Jan. 16, 2019: Giuliani says on CNN, "I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or between people in the campaign…If the collusion happened, it happened a long time ago.”

Go deeper: Manafort allegedly lied about sharing polling data with Russian operative

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