Jay Sekulow to Chris Wallace: "The President Of The United States Is Not A Suspect At All"

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Jay Sekulow, a member of President Trump's legal team, discusses allegations that the president "colluded" with Russians during the 2016 election to spread information about Hillary Clinton.


WALLACE: Well, Jay, I think it went better than last time and, you know, we're going to still keep trying to get this --

SEKULOW: Well, I don't mind a good joust. A good joust is all right, even early in the morning.


Full transcript:

WALLACE: Jay, do you now acknowledge that all of those denials are at the very least suspect?

JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP LEGAL TEAM: No, you've got to put them in context of what the president said and exactly what took place here, Chris. I think it's important to put the framework here. How did we end up with a special counsel?

Here's how: the former FBI director, was the FBI director at the time, James Comey, had a series of meetings with the president of the United States. In those meetings, he took notes. He put them on his government computer, put them in his government desk, and when he was terminated from position, which you would (ph) acknowledge that the president had the authority to do, he gave them to a friend of his to leak to the press.

So, conversations he had with the president of the United States --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: Jay, I'm aware of the history, but this doesn't have anything to do with my question, which is whether or not -- whether or not there were contacts.

(CROSSTALK)

SEKULOW: Chris, it has everything --

WALLACE: Can you answer the question? Does this --

SEKULOW: I'm going to answer your question, I am, and you're going to let me answer it. So, I'm going to finish what I was saying.

WALLACE: It depends on how long we're going to take to get there.

SEKULOW: Not long. Chris, he leaked the information for one purpose and one purpose only to his friend, and he said to get a special counsel and the special counsel is appointed. So, the entire premise upon which this entire investigation has been based was based on illegally leaked information, including conversation with the president the president of the United States, and today, it's announced that James Comey has signed a book deal where he's going to discuss all this.

You tell me you think that's OK?

WALLACE: I'm not asking about any of that. I'm asking about --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: Wait a minute, Jay, you said let me let you finish, now let me finish.

The question I'm asking you is very simple. The president, his vice president, his son repeatedly denied any contacts with the Russians. Given what we've learned this week about the contact between a number of top campaign officials, including the president's son, are all those denials that that's just fake news and a hoax, are those suspect?

SEKULOW: I just answer the question on why -- the president's statements have been clear on what this was involving in his view, and I gave you just now the analysis on how in fact this investigation started.

WALLACE: But that's not the question I asked. But let's go if we can --

(CROSSTALK)

SEKULOW: Chris, let's not go through that again. It was the question you asked --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: No, it wasn't. The question you -- the question I asked you, Jay, is whether or not the denials are suspect? I didn't ask you about James Comey.

SEKULOW: I do not think the denials are suspect. I do not think the denial by the president of the United States is suspect at all.

WALLACE: Here's the email exchange in June of 2016 between Don, Jr., setting up the meeting between Don, Jr., and the Russians.

Rob Goldstone writes: The crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high-level and sensitive information that is part of Russia and its government support for Mr. Trump.

Don, Jr. responds: If that's what you say -- if it's what to say, I love it, especially later in the summer.

Doesn't that contradict the denial of any contact between the Trump campaign and the Russians?

SEKULOW: I mean, what it states was that there was going to be a meeting -- you said the Russians, this was a lawyer who was Russian. That was -- this was a lawyer who ended being -- was Russian. And what took place at that meeting, and it's been well-reported and you reported this as well, the discussions involving the Magnitsky Act and Russian adoptions. It was quickly ended. It was in the middle of a campaign.

And, look, this idea that -- it may have involved opposition research which never materialized evidently. The fact is, you know, that the Ukrainians at the very same time or working with the DNC and the Clinton campaign to get, what, opposition research on Donald Trump and his associates.

WALLACE: But --

SEKULOW: So, everybody's acting as if -- OK. Go ahead.

WALLACE: Well, what I was going to say is, doesn't it indicate -- you say, well, it was a meeting about adoption, we'll get to that in a moment.

SEKULOW: Yes.

WALLACE: But he fact of the matter is, the reason that Don, Jr. went into that room and Jared Kushner went into that room and Paul Manafort went into that room was not to talk about adoption, it's because they had been promised --

SEKULOW: Right.

WALLACE: -- they've been promised by Rob Goldstone that there would be information as part of the Russian government's effort to tip the election to President Trump.

SEKULOW: Yes, and, of course, nothing in that meeting that would have taken place, even if it was about the topic of an opposition research paper from a Russian lawyer is a legal or a violation of the law. And, by the way, I'm not the only lawyer -- and you know this, Chris -- most lawyers, many, I would say a vast majority of lawyers that you've interviewed and others have interviewed on your network and other networks, have acknowledged that the meeting itself and those proposed discussion would not have been a violation of the law.

WALLACE: But the point is, it does show intent, willingness, perhaps not actual collusion because apparently, and, in fact, none of us know what really went on to the meeting, but assuming that at least on that point everybody is telling the truth, doesn't it show intent and willingness on the part of Don, Jr., and Jared and Paul Manafort to collude with the Russians?

And let me just point out, Natalia Veselnitskaya was not just some Russian off the street. She had close ties to people in the Kremlin.

SEKULOW: Well, number one, if it was -- the discussion was going to be about -- if it was going to be about Russian opposition research that a Russian lawyer had, the fact is, those goes on -- you know that goes on the campaigns all the time. Opposition research is a big part of campaigning. I just gave you the example --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: It doesn't go on with Russians all the time, Jay.

SEKULOW: Well, now, but, look, this was -- here's what happened. First of all, nothing happened. There'd be no exchange of information. But in and of itself, that meeting, the relevancy of the differential that you just put forward, the relevancy of whether it was a Russian lawyer or other individuals that Donald Trump, Jr., knew, the fact is what took place during that meeting, even on the basis of the emails as Donald Trump, Jr., laid them out, were not violations of the statutes.

So, when you talk about Russian collusion, colluding to do what? What? Colluding to violate what law?

WALLACE: Well, let's talk about the legality of the meeting.

SEKULOW: Yes.

WALLACE: The U.S. Code, and let's put it up --

SEKULOW: Yes.

WALLACE: -- bars a foreign national of giving money or, quote, thing of value, in connection with an election and it bars anyone from soliciting such assistance.

SEKULOW: Right.

WALLACE: Wasn't the Trump campaign, in agreeing to that meeting, not talking about what happened, but what they thought when they went into that meeting, wasn't it soliciting something of value, which was the Kremlin, as they believed it, the Kremlin's effort to tip the election to Donald Trump?

SEKULOW: Well, number one, they didn't solicit the meeting and you know that by reviewing the emails. The meeting --

WALLACE: But they agreed to it and --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: They agreed to it and, in fact, Donald Trump said, I love it, and he agreed to the meeting on the 25th floor of Trump Tower.

SEKULOW: The opposition research, if it would have materialized, is not a thing of value. There's never been a case that has said that opposition research is a thing of value.

And, by the way, there's been FEC lawyers, Federal Election Commission lawyers, that have talked about that as well.

So, I think, Chris, you don't conflate -- I don't think it's appropriate to conflate -- the exact transition as it was laid out in those emails, which was not a solicitation by the Trump campaign to get information, it was an offer of opposition research. Compare that to what took place with the Ukrainians and the DNC where they were working in collusion with each other, or when the DNC was leaking to one of the other networks the questions that they were going to ask during the debates.

So, everyone's acting as if there's this massive collusion statute that only applies here. The fact is there is no collusion statute, period.

WALLACE: Well, there are a couple of points here, and one of them is that you seem to be sliding over the fact that this wasn't CNN that was given questions to Hillary Clinton. This was according to the offer that was being made by Rob Goldstone. This was the Kremlin, a hostile power, offering information.

Christopher Wray, the president's own FBI director nominee, saw it this way. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR NOMINEE: To the members of this committee, any threat or effort to interfere with our elections from any nation-state or any non-state actor is the kind of thing the FBI would want to know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: He is not saying any actual --

SEKULOW: Right.

WALLACE: -- interference. He is saying any offer is something the FBI would want to know. Would you agree that Donald Jr., and Jared and Paul Manafort should have notified the FBI?

SEKULOW: Here's -- what -- this is what Chris Wray just said. He would investigate any type of involvement of interference.

The president of the United States has said precisely the same thing. He said that on multiple occasions, you could go back and check the record on this, the president said to James Comey, if satellites were doing something -- remember that whole statement?

But here, what do you have? What took place between what we know took place, was not a violation of the law. There's not a violation of the law. The question is, Russia's other engagement on a global scale, as directed to the United States, that's being investigated.

I -- and the president has asked Vladimir Putin himself about that, talk to him about that, on multiple occasions when they were just at the G20. So, this idea that this -- that what Chris Wray said is somehow inconsistent with what the president said I think is a false narrative. It's not true.

WALLACE: In our --

SEKULOW: They are not inconsistent statements. Yes, go ahead.

WALLACE: You began this interview by going after James Comey for leaking information, for writing a book.

SEKULOW: Yes, yes.

WALLACE: In our last interview last month, you were sharply critical of James Comey and I want to play some of that for you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEKULOW: I can't discuss that and I would not discuss that with you. Unlike James Comey, who leaks information to the press, I actually respect the attorney-client privilege. Apparently, he did not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Jay, you said that a couple of times and that interview. Let me ask you, with the attorney-client privilege exists between the president and the FBI director?

SEKULOW: Well, there's the presidential executive privileges and there's the deliberative privilege. So, there's two privileges that acquire there.

WALLACE: There's no attorney -- you would agree there's no attorney-client privilege?

SEKULOW: Well, James Comey is an attorney, but in the case of his conversation --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: But he's not acting as an attorney. He is acting as FBI director.

SEKULOW: Right. But you --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: He doesn't work as the personal attorney for the president.

SEKULOW: No, of course not.

WALLACE: Well, OK, so that's --

SEKULOW: But he has -- he held it, Chris, I want to be clear, he has an executive privilege, no one denies that there was a privilege that existed between the president of the United States and James Comey, and James Comey willfully, without the consent of the White House or the president, released information that was covered by that privilege.

WALLACE: But he doesn't -- the point --

SEKULOW: That's illegal.

WALLACE: -- the point I'm trying to make, Jay, that when you suggest that James Comey violated attorney-client privilege, that really misunderstands the role of the FBI director. He's not the president's private lawyer.

SEKULOW: Chris, I have the attorney-client privilege, and that was the context of what I said. I have the attorney-client privilege. Unlike James Comey, I respect the attorney-client privilege as James Comey should have respected the executive privilege and the deliberative privilege that he waved, which he had no authority to do, in order to get evidently a special counsel and a book deal.

WALLACE: One final question -- well, he got the book deal because he got fired by the president. Who's --

SEKULOW: Do you think -- OK, do you think it's OK that in the book deal, according to the press reports, that he's going to go into details on his conversations with the president? Do you think that's good? Do you think that's OK?

WALLACE: I asked the questions. You answer them, Jay. Let me ask you --

SEKULOW: You won't answer that one. OK, go ahead. Go ahead.

WALLACE: Let me ask you one final question, and I hope you can answer this. Who's paying you and all of the outside lawyers?

SEKULOW: So, I am retained by the main law firm that's involved in the representation of the president and that is the Kasowitz firm. I'm retained of counsel. So, our billing that I would do for this kind of case goes to his firm and they pay us.

WALLACE: Yes. But you're kind of ducking the question. Who's paying them?

SEKULOW: No, no, I don't --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: Obviously, Marc Kasowitz is paying you. Who's paying them?

SEKULOW: That situation is between Mr. Kasowitz's firm and whoever is paying, whatever entities paying them. We are sub-paid by the -- we're just of counsel. So, I can't give you -- I'm not in privity of contract as we say in the law with a person or the organization that's paying for bills to the Kasowitz firm.

WALLACE: Do you know if President Trump is personally paying for his private legal defense? Because the reason I ask is --

SEKULOW: I don't know.

WALLACE: -- there's talk that the campaign committee is paying. There is talk about an effort to have the RNC pay.

SEKULOW: Yes.

WALLACE: So, this is an issue.

SEKULOW: Yes. But that's -- none of those would be illegal or outside the norm. I mean, that happens in these cases. I can't answer your question because I don't know.

WALLACE: I'm just trying to get an answer.

SEKULOW: Yes. Well, I don't -- I'm not in privity of contract, as we say, with the party that's responsible for the actual payment of the bill. I'm just of counsel to the Kasowitz firm for the purposes of this case.

WALLACE: Well, Jay, I think it went better than last time and, you know, we're going to still keep trying to get this --

SEKULOW: Well, I don't mind a good joust. A good joust is all right, even early in the morning.

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