“The president is not and has not been under investigation for obstruction," attorney Jay Sekulow said on NBC’s “Meet the Press." He made similar comments in three other TV appearances on Sunday.
The conservative lawyer, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, is assisting Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz as Mueller investigates Russian interference in the 2016 elections and the potential obstruction of justice by the president in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
Trump on Friday said on Twitter that “I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt." It was the first time Trump had publicly acknowledged that he’s under investigation.
Yet Sekulow said the president was referring to a news report about an investigation, not an actual probe. “The tweet from the president was in response to the five anonymous sources purportedly leaking info to the Washington Post," he said.
No Notice Received
“We’ve received no notice of investigation. There has been no notification from the special counsel’s office that the president is under investigation. In fact, to the contrary," Sekulow said on CBS’ “Face the Nation."
Sekulow cited testimony by Comey earlier this month that the president wasn’t a target of an investigation. The suggestion that Mueller is expanding his probe of Russian interference in the 2016 elections and the Trump team’s actions into a possible obstruction case has emerged since Comey spoke to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Taking to Twitter on Sunday while spending the weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat, Trump again referenced the “distraction of the Witch Hunt." He has used the term repeatedly—notably on Thursday, when he said the “single greatest witch hunt in American political history" is being led by “very bad and conflicted people."
The future of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein seemed in doubt Friday when Trump appeared to attack him in the tweet.
A US official last week confirmed that Rosenstein has told colleagues he may have to recuse himself from the inquiry because he’d criticized Comey in a memo before Trump fired the FBI chief. Although the White House initially said Rosenstein’s memo led Trump to fire Comey, the president later said in a television interview that he did so because of the Russia investigation.
Asked if Trump’s social media commentary may be designed to intimidate Rosenstein or Mueller, Senator Marco Rubio said “I have no basis to make a decision on what his intent is" but added that the tweets “in no way" will impede the work of the investigation.
The FBI “doesn’t sit around all day and read tweets," said Rubio, a Republican from Florida who’s a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump ally, said the president’s tweet seemingly acknowledging that he is under investigation didn’t help him.
“Trump has a compulsion to counter attack and is very pugnacious," Gingrich said on ABC’s “This Week" on Sunday.
Trump and his personal attorney are trying to “take down" Mueller before he finishes his investigation, Representative Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on House Intelligence Committee, said on ABC.
“They want to lay the foundation to discredit whatever Bob Mueller comes up with," Schiff said. “They’re essentially engaging in a scorched-earth litigation strategy that is beginning with trying to discredit the prosecutor."
Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, said on “Fox News Sunday" that it would be a “disaster" for Trump to fire Mueller or Rosenstein, or to nudge the latter to recuse himself in an effort to slow down the investigation.
Rosenstein is the only official who could fire Mueller, because Attorney General Jeff Sessions previously recused himself from the probe into Russian interference in last year’s presidential campaign and whether anyone close to Trump colluded with the Russians.
“If the president thinks he can fire Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and replace him with someone who will shut down the investigation, he’s in for a rude awakening," Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Friday in a statement. Bloomberg