Donald Trump's legal defense team have responded to the Russia scandal in recent months by arguing, repeatedly and in public, that the president and his campaign didn't collude with Putin's government during last year's attack, and that the president didn't obstruct justice as the investigation has unfolded.
The new line from Trump World is that collusion isn't a big deal and the president is, as a matter of law, incapable of obstructing justice.
On the first point, Jay Sekulow, one of the president's prominent private attorneys, told the New Yorker that collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, if it happened, would be legally permissible. "For something to be a crime, there has to be a statute that you claim is being violated," Sekulow said. "There is not a statute that refers to criminal collusion. There is no crime of collusion."
On the show last night, former White House Counsel Bob Bauer described this argument as a "fantasy," adding, "There certainly is a statute that prohibits an American political campaign from essentially establishing a political alliance with a foreign government to win a presidential election, and the suggestion that that's not a crime I think is simply, flatly wrong."
As for obstruction-of-justice allegations, John Dowd, who's helping lead Trump's legal defense, told Axios that a president "cannot obstruct justice" by virtue of the fact that he's the nation's chief law-enforcement official. I thought Dowd might try to walk that back, but in an interview with USA Today, he doubled down.
Trump has denied that he asked Comey to drop the investigation. But his chief lawyer, John Dowd, suggested Monday it wouldn't even matter if he had -- because a president cannot obstruct justice by telling the FBI how he hopes a criminal investigation will be resolved.
"He is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States," Dowd said in an email to USA TODAY. "He has more power and discretion on that matter that DOJ and FBI put together. He cannot obstruct himself!"
There are three angles to this that are worth keeping in mind.