Jay Sukelow repeatedly denied that President Donald Trump was the subject of a criminal investigation related to the inquiry in Russia's 2016 election meddling.
A prominent member of President Donald Trump's legal team on Sunday denied that the president was under criminal investigation for obstruction of justice over his firing of James Comey as FBI director, directly contradicting a blockbuster Washington Post report that said the president was under investigation.
In an interview on "Meet The Press," Jay Sekulow repeatedly denied that Trump had become a subject of the FBI's investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, even when host Chuck Todd pointed out that Trump himself in a tweet last week seemed to confirm that he was a target of the investigation.
"Then why did he say he was?" Todd asked. "I mean, was this just mistweeted? Are we not to take him at his word?"
Sekulow insisted that Todd was "reading more to the tweet than what's there."
"The president's tweet was in response to the Washington Post story," Sekulow replied. "The Washington Post issued a story that had five anonymous sources, which they never identified what agencies those sources originated out of. The response from the president, using social media, was about that story. But let me be very clear here, as it has been since the beginning: The president is not and has not been under investigation for obstruction."
Sekulow insisted that Trump fired Comey at the recommendation of the deputy attorney general. Todd, however, noted that Trump himself told NBC anchor Lester Holt he planned on firing Comey regardless of recommendations from the deputy attorney general and attorney general. Comey was leading the FBI's Russia investigation at the time of his firing, which ultimately led Robert Mueller to be named special counsel to lead the inquiry.
"The question is going to be, though, what was the reason behind the firing?" Todd asked. "Was the reason having to do with his handling of the Russia investigation, or was it having to do with his handling of the Clinton email investigation? The reason I ask you this is the memo that was written, the rationale by the deputy attorney general, did not discuss Russia. The president, in his interview with my colleague Lester Holt, said it was about Russia. Which is it?"
Sekulow insisted that Trump fired Comey over his handling of the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server when she was secretary of state — for which she was not charged with wrongdoing — and pointed out that Trump told Holt that firing Comey would most likely lengthen the Russia investigation.
"He was fully aware that if in fact he took this action, he would see a lengthening or could see a lengthening of the process," Sekulow said. "So you cannot view this, in my mind, Chuck, or in any reasonable person's mind, especially someone that's representing the president of the United States, these things in a vacuum. There's multiple factors that come into exist. But let me tell you the factor that came into exist here. The president made the determination to remove the director of the FBI after consultation with others. And that determination is protected by the Constitution."
Todd continued to push Sekulow, asking why Trump seemed obsessed with the investigation even though he insisted he was innocent.
"Why does the president seem, act as if he is so concerned about this investigation if he did nothing wrong?" Todd said. "If this investigation is going to find — and he knows he did nothing wrong, then he shouldn't be afraid of this investigation. It's being led by professionals, a guy like Robert Mueller who is not a political guy — you know he's not a partisan guy. I'm just curious, why doesn't the president embrace this investigation if he's innocent?"
"Because every day, The Washington Post and The New York Times are utilizing supposed leaked information about supposed investigations of the president of the United States," Sekulow replied. "So his legal team and the president responds."
Todd was one of many cable-news personalities who clashed with Trump's personal attorney over his insistence that The Washington Post's report was inaccurate. Sekulow made similar claims on CNN, Fox News, and CBS News.
CNN's Jake Tapper similarly pressed Sekulow on Sunday, noting the president's apparent confirmation of the investigation.
"With all due respect, the president said 'I am being investigated' in a tweet, and people take his word on that," Tapper said. "But you're his attorney. You're saying that the president, when he said that, was not accurate."
"It was 141 characters," Sekulow replied. "There's a limitation on Twitter, as we all know ... The president issued that tweet, that social-media statement, based on a fake report, a report with no documented sources, from The Washington Post."