20 June, 2017
Fresh off a series of Sunday show appearances in which Jay Sekulow chanted "the president is not under investigation", President Donald Trump's lawyer appeared on CNN's New Day for a marathon showdown with Chris Cuomo. On Sunday, Trump's attorney insisted that this is not the case, and that the President was merely reacting to a Washington Post story that first reported about an investigation for obstruction of justice.
Then, in a subsequent interview on "Fox News Sunday", Sekulow sowed further confusion by saying Trump was under investigation - then denied he said anything of the sort.
Though several Trump associates have hired more conventional attorneys from the elite ranks of Washington-region litigators - son-in-law Jared Kushner has turned to Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, and Vice President Mike Pence has retained veteran Richmond, Virginia, defense lawyer Richard Cullen - the Trump defense team has a decidedly different pedigree.
This is, however, a tough sell, in part because multiple major news organizations have confirmed that the president is in fact being investigated for obstruction of justice, and in part because of phrases such as "I am being investigated" and "He's being investigated" don't lend themselves to nuanced interpretations. Next, on Friday morning, Trump announced to the world he is under investigation: "I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director!"
"The man" the President was referring to is Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosentein, who authored a scathing critique of the fired Federal Bureau of Investigation director's handling of the Clinton email case. Sekulow mostly sidestepped the question, but he did suggest that Trump reached his decision through a "collaborative process" in which Trump considered Rosenstein's recommendation (made in a memo criticizing Comey's handling of Hillary Clinton's emails).
Trump essentially confessed that he fired Comey in order to forestall the Russian Federation investigation, telling NBC News interviewer Lester Holt in nationally televised broadcast that "this Russian Federation thing" was among his motivations for firing Comey. Although the White House initially said Rosenstein's memo led Trump to fire Comey, the president later said in a television interview that he did so because of the Russian Federation investigation.
Sekulow responded by citing what he called a "constitutional issue", with this situation, explaining that Trump had taken action to fire Comey partially based on recommendations from Rosenstein, and is now facing an investigation from the Department of Justice, because that's who Mueller reports to.
How many times have you heard a Democrat or Trump critic say that they are determined to "get to the bottom" of it?
Mueller, it was reported late Friday, has added at least 13 lawyers to the team investigating president.
The two leaders of the panel have both been frustrated that key witnesses have testified before the Senate intelligence committee - rather than their panel - and both have warned that Comey in particular could face a subpoena if he does not agree to testify before Judiciary.
Former Department of Justice official John Malcolm told CNBC that "there is no question that he (Mueller) is close to Jim Comey" and that he "must keep an arm's length distance" from him. "They're essentially engaging in a scorched-earth litigation strategy that is beginning with trying to discredit the prosecutor".
Given the severity of the president's crisis, Trump needs good attorneys who'll give him sound advice. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has said there is no evidence of collusion. University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds, who also publishes the popular Instapundit blog, wrote an op-ed for USA Today on Monday arguing that Mueller "has a disqualifying conflict of interest" if he pursues any obstruction investigation against Trump. "He could corroborate Comey's testimony about their conversation after Comey's one-on-one with Trump". Schiff said his panel is looking forward to getting a response from the White House on whether recordings exist.
"Leaking" is a strong, sometimes unfair and misleading word that has risen to prominence since the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Mr Schiff said he wants the White House to acknowledge the tapes or make clear there are no tapes and "it was an idle threat". It also sent a letter to Mr Comey asking for notes or memos.