WASHINGTON ― Jay Sekulow, a member of President Donald Trump’s legal team, has had a tough news day.
During an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Sekulow said the president has not been directly notified that he is under investigation before seeming to indicate that Trump is a target of a probe stemming from Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election.
“Here’s the constitutional threshold question,” Sekulow said to host Chris Wallace, referring to Trump’s firing of then-FBI Director James Comey in early May. “The president takes action based on numerous events, including recommendations from his attorney general and the deputy attorney general’s office. He takes the action that they also recommended and now he’s being investigated by the Department of Justice.”
“He’s being investigated for taking the action that the attorney general and deputy attorney general recommended him to take by the agency who recommended the termination,” Sekulow said. “So that’s the constitutional threshold question here.”
When Wallace noted that he had said the president is being investigated by the Justice Department, Sekulow quickly backtracked.
“He’s not being investigated!” he exclaimed. “Let me be crystal clear so you completely understand. We have not received nor are we aware of any investigation into the president of the United States.
“You just said it two times he’s being investigated,” Wallace responded.
“No. I just gave you the legal theory of how the Constitution works.”
When Wallace said it seemed Sekulow didn’t know whether Trump is under investigation, the lawyer responded: “You’re right, Chris, I can’t read the mind” of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
“Okay, well good, we’re in agreement,” Wallace said. “You don’t know whether he’s under investigation or not.”
In an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Sekulow sought to clarify the hypothetical legal scenario he presented on the Fox News program.
“If The Washington Post leads were correct, the president of the United States would be ― if this were correct ― under investigation for taking the action that the Department of Justice asked him to take,” he said.
“It’s impossible,” Sekulow continued. “The president cannot be investigated, certainly cannot be found liable, for engaging in an activity he clearly has powers to do under the Constitution.”
During an appearance on NBC “Meet the Press,” Sekulow said plainly that Trump was not under investigation, directly contradicting a tweet from the president last week.
“The president is not under investigation” by Mueller, Sekulow told moderator Chuck Todd. “The tweet from the president was in response to the five anonymous sources that were purportedly leaking information to The Washington Post about a potential investigation of the president. But the president, as James Comey said in his testimony [to a Senate committee earlier this month] and as we know as of today, the president has not been and is not under investigation.”
When Todd pressed, asking if people are “not to take [Trump] at his word,” Sekulow maintained that the president was responding to the Washington Post story reporting that he was being investigated for obstruction of justice by Mueller as part of the Russia probe.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Todd also pressed Sekulow on what seemed to be a reference to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in Trump’s tweet.
“The president himself said he was going to fire the FBI director regardless of whatever the deputy attorney general or the attorney general said. So I’m confused there,” Todd said. “Who made the recommendation to fire James Comey? Was it the president’s decision or was it the recommendation of the deputy attorney general?”
Sekulow responded that the president made the final decision on Comey’s firing, but it was “a collaborative and ... a very thorough process” with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Rosenstein.
“When he met with his attorney general, when he met with his deputy attorney general, and reviewed their recommendations of what they thought the appropriate course of action should be, both were convinced, with as I said, a long and very persuasive document, that James Comey should be removed,” Sekulow said.
In an interview with MSNBC host Lester Holt last month, Trump said he had already decided he would fire Comey before hearing any recommendations from Justice Department officials.
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sekulow also said Trump wasn’t under investigation. Host Jake Tapper pressed him on contradicting Trump’s tweet, noting that people consider those to be official statements.
“But you’re his attorney, and you’re saying the president, when he said that, was not accurate?” Tapper asked.
“It was 141 characters. There’s a limitation on Twitter ― as we all know,” Sekulow said, appearing flustered. “And the president [has] a very effective utilization of social media.”
This article has been updated with comments by Sekulow on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”