JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump continues to be nagged by possible links between Russia and his associates and questions over whether Mr. Trump has tried to shut down that investigation.
Last week, the Russia story took another turn when reports surfaced that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the president himself.
I spoke a short while ago to Jay Sekulow. He’s a member of President Trump’s legal team and chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice.
And I began by asking if the special counsel has informed Mr. Trump that he’s under investigation.
JAY SEKULOW, Member, President Trump’s Legal Team: No, he has not. There has been no information given by the special counsel informing the president that he is under investigation.
It’s been consistent. Again, we have received nothing about an investigation of the president of the United States.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, as you acknowledged yesterday, it is possible that the president could be under investigation and just simply not have been informed by it — about it.
JAY SEKULOW: Well, I mean, but here’s the reality. This is not something that’s happened in a vacuum.
This is — there’s been discussions about this Russian probe and committees of the Congress looking at this for nine months, with — producing no evidence about Russian collusion.
So, while it’s true I can’t read the mind of a special counsel, we have received no notification of an investigation or a pending investigation or a preliminary investigation or anything else.
So, what I can say is what we know is the president right now is not investigation, has not been investigation, and is not under investigation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Are you saying the stories that have been printed in The Washington Post and other news organizations are false?
JAY SEKULOW: Well, The Washington Post story was based on five anonymous sources where they didn’t even identify the agency.
So, you have that report coming out from The Washington Post which I believe is false. And then the — ABC reported that they had received from their sources information that in fact the special counsel had not opened an investigation of the president.
So, again, I don’t know where these sources are coming from, but we have not had any information from the special counsel or anyone else, for that matter, that the president is under investigation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, setting that aside, when the president told Lester Holt a few weeks ago at that interview that he had what he called the Russia thing on his mind when he fired then FBI Director James Comey and when he said to Russian diplomats around the same time that it relieved pressure on him to fire James Comey, what was he referring to?
JAY SEKULOW: Well, the president engaged in a deliberative process that went on for a number of weeks evaluating the performance of James Comey as the FBI director, and that culminated in a number of discussions that took place within the White House.
Ultimately, the attorney general of the United States and the deputy attorney general recommended to the president the removal of James Comey, and James Comey was removed. Now, that’s just fact.
What other thoughts the president had going into that, how long he’d been considering, I wasn’t privy to that, but normal deliberative process and they look at a variety of issues.
Regarding the Russia situation, I would like to say something, Judy, here. Look, this is a bit of a witch-hunt. It really is a witch-hunt. This investigation from the Congress has been going for nine months into this Russia probe. And members of the Senate and House from right, left and center said so far there’s been no evidence of collusion.
When the intelligence officers were asked, is there evidence of collusion on this, no evidence of collusion. We didn’t include evidence because we haven’t seen that evidence.
So, this is a situation that I think is basically like a factual scenario that’s almost being made up. And the president is responding the way presidents respond, in that this is not consuming his day. It’s not consuming an hour.
He’s trying to and is successfully governing. And I think what we have to look at, there is now a special counsel. The special counsel will evaluate whatever the special counsel evaluates. But the American people are being penalized in this as well. And it continues to drag on.
JAY SEKULOW: Yes, go ahead.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But let me just step in here.
You — the president’s called it a witch-hunt. You have said it’s a witch-hunt. And yet you have said it should go forward.
If you believe, if the president believes it’s a witch-hunt, does he believe that the whole thing should stop, that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, should step aside and either let somebody else take this over or just say, I’m not going to do this?
JAY SEKULOW: Well, now, the president hasn’t said that the special counsel can’t do his job.
What the president has said consistently is — in fact, when he — in that Lester Holt interview, if you remember, if you look at the full transcript, he acknowledged that, by firing James Comey and removing him from the director of the FBI, that it would extend this investigation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
JAY SEKULOW: He said that. So, he knew the consequence, so to speak, of his action. He took the action because he thought it was in the best interest of the United States, as did his attorney general and deputy attorney general and others.
So, I think that we’re — when I say the phrase witch-hunt, when the president is talking about a witch-hunt, this whole frenzy that developed and, again, with everybody coming forward on all of these committees says so far they have seen nothing in, like I said, an investigation going on nine months.
So, the special counsel has been appointed. And the special counsel will ultimately do their job. And at the end of that special counsel’s job, we will see that there is nothing against the president, as I suspected the entire time. And I think the legal team without question is confident of that.
But, Judy, the witch-hunt aspect of this is just the nature of what’s going on with multiple committees simultaneously, now a special counsel. I mean, what else are you going to add to the mix to make it?
And, by the way, when you have a special counsel and you have those committees going, as you know — you have been watching it a long time — when you have those going simultaneously, it raises a whole host of issues of conflicts and everything else that are going to have to be looked at.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, two quick questions. If the president believes this is a witch-hunt, if you and his other attorneys believe that, and yet, at the same time, you’re saying the probe should go forward, there is a contradiction there.
Are you saying it should go forward unfettered, that there will be cooperation from the president? Or are you saying there is going to be some kind of resistance because you think it’s an illegitimate investigation?
JAY SEKULOW: Well, look, the president has said that — has given no indication that he’s not going to cooperate, if there’s anything to cooperate on.
Now, let me be clear on that, because you raise a really important point, and that is there is multiple aspects to this Russian probe, as it has been described. So, we will — the president is not saying stop the Russian probe.
The witch-hunt aspect of this is this media-created frenzy of unnamed sources saying it’s targeting the president. And then, of course, then you had the contradictory source from ABC saying it wasn’t. So, this is the witch-hunt aspect of this, leaking information.
Agents — I mean, how does it make the American people feel that supposed investigators involved in this Russian probe are leaking information anonymously without even defining what agency they’re from to The Washington Post? That shouldn’t be OK.
It shouldn’t be any more OK than James Comey doing the same thing, by the way.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But I believe you have acknowledged the fact that the president did fire James Comey, the FBI director, who at that time was overseeing this investigation, the fact that the president made those comments to Lester Holt, to the Russian diplomats about relieving pressure, the appearance is that the president wanted to do what he could to get this investigation off his back.
JAY SEKULOW: I think — I don’t think that’s at all what the case is.
I think the president removed James Comey for a number of reasons. Look, many left of center were calling for the removal of James Comey just about a year ago.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Excuse me.
The president said the reason was, at least what he told Lester Holt, was the Russia thing was on his mind when he fired James Comey.
JAY SEKULOW: Well, but look at — when you say the Russian thing is on his mind, look at the way the probe was handled on Hillary Clinton.
This was an individual, James Comey, who didn’t handle a very important investigation properly. And left, right and center have acknowledged it. And when the president was talking about the way the Russia probe is, that, as it moves forward, it is handled properly, not the way it was handled under James Comey.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Jay Sekulow, representing President Trump, thank you very much.
JAY SEKULOW: Thanks, Judy.