Friday, we told you about Trump’s morning Twitterdump, where he acknowledged he was being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller for firing James Comey, calling it a “witch hunt.” Two days later, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow made the rounds of the Sunday news talk shows, where he clumsily dodged questions in order to drive home one important point:
Trump is not now, nor has he ever been, under investigation for firing James Comey.
I guess Sekulow doesn’t talk to his client much. Your editor is a trial lawyer, and I cannot imagine having a worse client — one that lies to you, undermines you, and isn’t likely to pay you.
To say that Sekulow’s story does not match Trump’s would be putting it mildly. Not only did Sekulow repeatedly contradict Trump’s acknowledgement of the investigation (which likely covers much more than just the isolated firing of James Comey), he also contradicted Trump’s own admission that he fired Comey because of the “Russia thing,” claiming that the decision was a “collaborative” one based on deputy AG Rod Rosenstein’s infamous memo focusing on Comey’s ill-advised public statements concerning the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
Under repeated questions from Fox News’s Chris Wallace, Sekulow’s whole story fell apart. Here’s the entire exchange, transcribed by the Washington Post:
CHRIS WALLACE: I want to ask you a direct question: Does the president think that [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein has done anything wrong?
SEKULOW: The president has never said anything about Rod Rosenstein doing anything wrong. Here’s what — what is the legal situation here. There is a constitutional issue when you have this scenario. The president made a determination based on consult of advice. He decided ultimately. He’s the commander in chief. He gets to make that decision that James Comey had a go. That was coming, by the way, from groups right, left and center over the last year. You — you and I know that. So there had been concern about James Comey.
It was put forward in a memorandum — that’s what the president’s referencing — from the deputy attorney general and the attorney general requesting the removal of James Comey as the FBI director. And, ultimately, that’s the president’s determination.
So here’s the constitutional threshold question, Chris. 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, by the way, recommended. And now he’s being investigated by the Department of Justice because the special counsel under the special counsel relations reports still to the Department of Justice. Not an independent counsel. So 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. So that’s the constitutional threshold question here. That’s why, as I said, no investigation —
WALLACE: Well, I — what — what — what’s the question [inaudible]. I mean you — you stated — you stated some facts. First of all, you’ve now said that he is getting investigated after saying that you didn’t.
WALLACE: You — you just, sir, that he’s being —
SEKULOW: No, he’s not being investigated!
WALLACE: You just said that he’s being investigated.
SEKULOW: No, Chris, I said that the — any — let me be crystal clear so you — you completely understand. We have not received nor are we aware of any investigation of the president of the United States, period.
WALLACE: Sir, you just said two times that he’s being investigated.
Pro tip: don’t contradict yourself. Trust me. Now is when Sekulow’s bullshit really starts getting thick:
SEKULOW: No. The context of the tweet, I just gave you the legal theory, Chris, of how the Constitution works. If, in fact, it was correct that the president was being investigated, he would be investigating for taking action that an agency told him to take. So that is protected under the Constitution as his article one power. That’s all I said. So I appreciate you trying to rephrase it, but I’m just being really direct with you, Chris. This is — let me be —
No, Jay, the Constitution does not, in fact, work that way. There is no “they made me do it” defense to obstruction to justice, at least not in MY copy of the U.S. Constitution. Here’s some more babbling:
WALLACE: No, I — I — sir, I didn’t rephrase it. The tape will speak — Jay, the tape will speak for itself. You said he is being investigated. And it’s not that big —
SEKULOW: Chris, he is — just — no, Chris — that’s [inaudible] unfair, Chris.
WALLACE: Wait a minute — wait a minute. Jay, and it’s not — Jay, it’s not just being investigated for firing Comey. There’s also the question of what he said to Comey when Comey was still the FBI director. So there’s more than just the fact that he fired Comey.
SEKULOW: He — Chris, let me be clear, you asked me a question about what the president’s tweet was regarding the deputy attorney general of the United States. That’s what you asked me. And I responded to what that legal theory would be. So I do not appreciate you putting words in my mouth when I’ve been crystal clear that the president is not and has not been under investigation. I don’t think I can be any clearer than that.
The dude is really starting to panic now. He realizes that his one message (ain’t no investigation) has now been contradicted by not just Trump, but by the words coming out of his own lawyer mouth, into which Chris Wallace did not put any words. Nothing he has said so far is “crystal clear.”
And now for the big admission, the Perry Mason moment: Sekulow doesn’t have a damned clue whether there is an ongoing investigation:
WALLACE: Well, you don’t know that he’s not under investigation again, sir. I mean you might —
SEKULOW: You know, I can’t read the mind — you’re right, Chris, I can’t read the minds of the special prosecutor.
WALLACE: Well, then, good, okay, so we’re in agreement, you don’t know whether he’s under — you don’t know whether he’s under investigation.
SEKULOW: But I have not been notified. No one has been notified that he is.
WALLACE: You don’t know whether he’s under investigation or not.
Wow. It always amuses me to see a trial lawyer subjected to withering cross-examination. In Sekulow’s defense, no lawyer (or other human) could keep such a crazy and contradictory story straight, and a first year law graduate would have chewed Sekulow up and spit him out in much the same way Wallace did. This is my favorite part: “you’re right, Chris, I can’t read the minds of the special prosecutor.” EXACTLY. Figuring out whether an investigation is taking place when investigators are not in the practice of keeping their targets in the loop is like trying to guess how many rabid squirrels are running around in Donald Trump’s head at any given moment.
So once again, we have Trump surrogates trying to stick to talking points that contradict the president’s tweets.
No wonder the administration is having a hard time hiring competent people. I cannot imagine a shittier job.