George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley says that President Donald Trump's critics are "so eager" to take down his presidency that they "grotesquely extend" the U.S. criminal code.
Turley made the comments on Fox News' "The Story" with Martha MacMallum on Tuesday night. MacCallum asked Turley about the changing narrative after news broke that Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin a second time last week at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.
Trump and Putin had a previously scheduled one-on-one sit down Thursday, but reportedly spoke for about an hour a second time. Media reports were highly suggestive that the second meeting was in secret, and highly critical of the U.S. president because he did not have an American translator with him at the time. The White House later said that the hour-long discussion occurred impromptu during a dinner at the G20 summit.
Turley said Tuesday that the reaction to the second meeting reflects the level of "hyperventilation" among Trump critics in Washington, D.C.
"This story broke and all of a sudden there's 'Well, there's more undisclosed meetings.' These are two world leaders at the G20 meeting. It was a meeting of world leaders. The fact that they had these types of meetings, whether they were public or not, is not surprising," Turley said.
The GWU law professor went on to say that while there are "serious things to investigate," mere collusion is not a crime in and of itself. Also, Turley said, Trump's critics tend to only see "what they want to see."
"I think the problem is that people are now looking through this glass darkly. Whenever they see any type of new meeting, they see evidence of collusion, or they see what they want to see. Prosecutions require something more," Turley said. He added that the second meeting between Trump and Putin, as well as the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer last year, is "certainly not evidence of a crime."
"First of all, to find a crime, collusion is not a crime under the code. When you talk about things like Donald Trump, Jr. people are so eager to say, 'Well now we have a crime here.' But they fail to actually define it," Turley said. "There are serious things to investigate here but you don't help that by concluding that there's strong evidence of a crime without a defined crime."
The law professor said the case could potentially could be made that the Trump campaign "conspired," which is a crime, but added the question that would then need answered is "conspiracy to do what?"
Turley noted that "people are saying, 'well, they were conspiring to defraud the government and that type of thing." But, he added, "we've never seen cases where it was defined that broadly."
The respected law professor concluded by stating that the case against Trump, as it stands now, is lacking in the legal sense.
"Each of these claims," Turley said, "on the evidence as they exist now, would grotesquely extend the criminal code and that's a dangerous thing." But, "people are so eager to bag a Trump that they're willing to take these crimes and take them well beyond their legal moorings."
Earlier in the segment, Turley noted that extending the criminal code based on one's own political desires is exactly what America's Founding Fathers sought to escape. For that reason, Turley, said, the framers of the U.S. Constitution "defined treason very narrowly?"
"Would you want to be in a country where treason was broadly defined in that way?" Turley asked, referring to Trump's second Putin meeting.