Fireworks exploded Sunday when Fox News anchor Chris Wallace grilled an attorney for President Donald Trump over whether or not the president is the subject of an FBI investigation.
The tense back-and-forth came after Trump seemingly acknowledged on Twitter last Friday that he is under investigation by the FBI for the firing of former FBI Director James Comey as the bureau continues to look into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
“I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt,” Trump tweeted Friday.
I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2017
But Jay Sekulow, a member of Trump’s legal defense team, unequivocally denied during interviews on all of the major Sunday cable news talk shows over the weekend that Trump is the target of special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation.
However, one notable moment came when Sekulow appeared to reverse course on “Fox News Sunday” by acknowledging to Wallace that Trump is under investigation for firing FBI Director James Comey last month.
Explaining that Trump dismissed Comey upon the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Sekulow clearly stated that Trump is now “being investigated” by the Department of Justice.
“He’s being investigated for taking that the action the attorney general and deputy attorney general recommended him to take by the agency that recommended the determination,” Sekulow said.
Sekulow had previously maintained that Trump is not under investigation, so Wallace was quick to confront Sekulow over the apparent contradiction.
“You’ve now said that [Trump is] being investigated,” Wallace confronted.
“No,” Sekulow shot back.
“You just said that he is being investigated,” Wallace clarified.
“No, Chris,” Sekulow retorted. “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.”
“Sir, you’ve just said two times that he’s being investigated,” Wallace pushed back.
But Sekulow was insistent that he didn’t just say what he just said.
“I just gave you the legal theory, Chris, of how the Constitution works,” Sekulow said. “If in fact that it was correct that the president is being investigated, he would be investigated for taking action that an agency told him to take. So that is protected under the Constitution.”
“That’s all I said,” Sekulow said. “I appreciate you trying to rephrase it.”
“No, sir, I didn’t rephrase it,” Wallace replied. “Jay, the tape will speak for itself. You said: ‘He is being investigated.’”
Afterward, Sekulow went into a diatribe accusing Wallace of “putting words” in his mouth when he had been “crystal clear that the president is not and has not been under investigation.”
“Well, you don’t know that he’s not under investigation, again sir,” Wallace shot back.
Holy crap. This exchange between Chris Wallace and Trump’s lawyer is absolutely incredible. pic.twitter.com/Wem33Lc1VK
— David Mack (@davidmackau) June 18, 2017
Indeed, Wallace is correct that Sekulow has no way of knowing for sure whether or not Trump is the center of Mueller’s investigation since Sekulow is not part of Mueller’s team and therefore is not privy to knowledge about the investigation.
So far, the FBI has confirmed only that they are investigating alleged Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election and whether or not Trump’s presidential campaign had improper contacts with Russian operatives during the election.
Trump’s political opponents, mainly Democrats, have accused Trump’s presidential campaign of “colluding” with Russian officials to undermine the election, but so far no concrete evidence has surfaced showing ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia. The FBI confirmed as much last October.