When Donald Trump took steps to assemble a legal team as the Russia scandal intensified, the president made a series of strange decisions – though none were as curious as bringing Jay Sekulow onto his team.
Sekulow, who has no experience as a defense or criminal attorney, and is perhaps best known for leading a radical televangelist’s legal group and overseeing a highly dubious fundraising scheme that benefits several members of his immediate family. My hunch is, Trump hired him anyway because he saw Sekulow making lots of appearances on Fox News.
The attorney has struggled at times since joining Team Trump – it’s hard to forget Sekulow arguing on national television that the president is and isn’t under investigation – but Politico this week highlighted something else Trump’s lawyer is doing that’s rather … unique.
As President Donald Trump’s legal team privately debates its strategy for dealing with special counsel Robert Mueller, the president’s most visible lawyer has publicly gone on the attack.
In recent weeks, Trump personal attorney Jay Sekulow has turned the live weekday talk-radio show he hosts into a regular forum for trashing the legitimacy of the federal probes into Trump’s Russia connections.
Fourteen of the past 19 episodes of “Jay Sekulow Live” have involved freewheeling conversations about the Trump-Russia saga and what he calls the “deep state” bureaucrats out to get the president. Sekulow also piles on during his regular appearances on Fox News.
This isn’t illegal. It’s also not unethical. But it’s nevertheless deeply bizarre behavior for a lawyer who’s helping defend a sitting president from a scandal of historic significance.
For one thing, it reflects a lack of seriousness on Sekulow’s part. He’s supposed to be helping lead the president’s legal defense team, but he’s also playing the role of far-right pundit, describing “deep state” conspiracy theories as if he were commenting on some fringe blog.
For another, his political antics suggest Sekulow isn’t especially busy. Most lawyers guiding their clients through potential constitutional crises don’t have time to host conservative talk shows – especially while ostensibly leading a national legal organization.
But even putting this aside, has it not occurred to Team Trump that there’s value in keeping one’s cards close their vest? In previous presidential scandals, those trying to protect the nation’s chief executive from legal jeopardy have been reserved when dealing with the press and communicating with the public.
And yet, there’s Jay Sekulow, hosting a conservative radio show, throwing caution to the wind, sharing all kinds of stray thoughts about the ongoing investigation into his own client’s political affairs.
“Whenever you’re representing the president, obviously the line between politics and the law is a blurry one,” Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told Politico. “There’s both a tactical line and an ethical one. He seems to be walking it.”
Dershowitz, of course, has been eager to defend Trump publicly as this scandal has unfolded. For him to deliver an on-the-record public warning to Sekulow is a reminder of just how bizarre Sekulow’s antics really are.