On Friday, to anyone who understands how words work, President Trump seemed to confirm that he was being investigated over his firing of former FBI director James Comey when he tweeted, “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director!” On Sunday, however, a lawyer from Trump’s growing personal legal team indicated that his client, the president of the United States, essentially didn’t know what he was tweeting about, or something.
Trump attorney Jay Sekulow insisted on Sunday’s Meet the Press that “the president is not and has not been under investigation for obstruction [of justice],” and that the reason he tweeted otherwise was not because he knew he was under investigation, as one might expect a president would, but because he had read a news report saying that he was.
“The tweet from the president was in response to the five anonymous sources purportedly leaking information to the Washington Post about a potential investigation of the president,” Sekulow labored to explain a total of four times, at one point telling host Chuck Todd that, “I think you’re reading more to the tweet than what’s there.”
Sekulow made a similar defense on the other Sunday shows, repeatedly insisting that the White House has received no notice of any investigation of Trump. Back to the tweet, though — this exchange with State of the Union host Jake Tapper was one for the ages:
TAPPER: So the president said, “I am under investigation,” even though he isn’t under investigation?
SEKULOW: That response, that response on social media was in response to the Washington Post piece. It’s that simple. The president is not under investigation.
TAPPER: Well, I wish it were that simple but, with all due respect, the president said, “I am being investigated” in a tweet, and people take his word on that, but you’re his attorney — you’re saying that the president, when he said that, was … not accurate.
SEKULOW: No. The president wasn’t … It was 141 characters — there’s a limitation on Twitter, as we all know. And the president has a very effective utilization of social media. So here’s what you have: The president issued that tweet, that social-media statement, based on a fake report — a report with no documented sources from the Washington Post.
They went a few more rounds before Tapper wondered, “Is that not frustrating for you as an attorney to have a client that is sharing information with the world that’s not accurate?”
Sekulow’s answer made absolutely no sense:
Look, this is — this is a president that has utilized social media, that has revolutionized the whole concept of electioneering when it comes to use of social media. He’s able to communicate with 107 million people on his various social-media platforms on a regular basis as he needs to, so he can directly reach a lot of people.
You can watch that full interview (and witness Tapper’s range of priceless facial expressions) here:
On CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, Sekulow also said that he believed the president would finally explain whether or not there were recordings of his conversations with Comey, as Trump has also tweet-implied, sometime this week.
The most confusing — and heated — exchange of the morning, however, was on Fox News Sunday. Host Chris Wallace heard the same Trump-tweet defense from Sekulow, but repeatedly made it clear that he didn’t think the lawyer actually knew whether or not the president was under investigation.
Making things worse, at one point, Sekulow strayed from the script and offered a preemptive defense of the president should the rumors of an obstruction investigation be true, and that’s when things got really convoluted. During a less-than-effective attempt to explain his legal theory for why Trump would have a right to be upset should the Department of Justice investigate him for following their advice to fire Comey, Sekulow seemed to admit that the president was, in fact, under investigation. Pressed by Wallace to account for the apparent contradiction, a clearly upset Sekulow subsequently accused Wallace of “putting words in my mouth,” and insisted again, “Let me be crystal clear so you completely understand: We have not received, nor are we aware of any investigation of the president of the United States. Period.”
Wallace eventually concluded, again, that Sekulow didn’t actually know whether the president was under investigation or not, and Sekulow didn’t disagree.
“You’re right, Chris, I can’t read the mind of the special prosecutor,” the frustrated lawyer replied.
Here is that long and testy interview: