President Trump‘s allies and legal experts faced new questions on Sunday about the legal ramifications of the revelation that the president dictated a letter about a 2016 meeting between his campaign aides and a Russian lawyer, even as his lawyers argue he can’t obstruct justice in the special counsel’s probe.
“Jay Sekulow said time and time again directly into the faces of the American people on television — Sarah [Huckabee] Sanders did the same thing, and said in no uncertain terms … they said the president had nothing to do with that statement by Donald Trump Jr. and didn’t draft it, didn’t sign off on it,” former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“And it turns out that is completely untrue,” he said.
Bharara — who was fired by Trump last year — added that, when looked at in full context, the events surrounding the Trump Tower meeting and subsequent fallout may put the president or some of his allies in legal jeopardy.
“You have the lawyer of the president of the United States, Jay Sekulow — and, on separate occasions, you have had Rudy Giuliani do this — basically lie to the American people repeatedly,” Bharara said.
“And if you are going to take the position, like they do in the sweeping letter about executive authority, that the president is in a special position in various ways, then I think the lawyers to the president have a special responsibility not to come on television and lie.”
The New York Times reported Saturday that Trump’s lawyers wrote to special counsel Robert Mueller in January arguing that the president cannot commit obstruction of justice in the special counsel’s probe because of his constitutional authority over the investigation.
The letter also confirms that Trump dictated a statement to The New York Times about the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr., other Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer who promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
Sekulow, one of Trump’s attorneys who wrote the letter to Mueller, previously denied that the president had any involvement with the statement.
Sanders, the White House press secretary, said last August that Trump may have given suggestions on the statement “as any father would,” but denied that he dictated it.
The meeting, and any coordinated cover-up, has been one point of focusin Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The changing narrative surrounding those events is likely to raise new legal questions, despite the president’s lawyer’s assertions about obstruction of justice.
Giuliani, who joined Trump’s legal team in April, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that Sekulow was “uninformed” when he originally denied Trump had anything to do with crafting the statement.
In appearances Sunday morning on NBC and ABC, Giuliani also used the shifting explanation surrounding the Trump Tower meeting to bolster his argument for why the president should not agree to an interview with Mueller.
“That’s the wisdom of not having a president testify,” he said. “It’s one thing to do it with a lawyer, it’s another to do it with your client.”
For months, Mueller’s team has sought a sit-down interview with Trump for his investigation. Trump’s legal team has sought to quell the possibility, fearing that he could be charged with lying to investigators or that prosecutors could seek to use the president’s words against him.
Corey Lewandowski, who worked as Trump’s campaign manager at the time of the meeting — though he did not attend — was not asked about the statement during an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) avoided the subject entirely when asked whether he’s bothered that the White House lied about Trump’s involvement in the aftermath of the meeting.
Instead, he renewed calls for an expedited conclusion to Mueller’s probe if no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia is found.
“What I am really concerned about is, look at what our economic numbers are. Look at North Korea’s meeting going through. Look at the trade discussions we are having. And this is the No. 1 question we are following through?” McCarthy said on CNN.
“Let them walk through their investigation,” he added. “But I think, if there is no collusion, it’s time to wind this down,” he added.
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