Trump's personal lawyer: Yes Russian contact happened, but it's totally legal

"These weren't activities that were illegal" said Jay Sekulow

By Matthew Sheffield
Published October 30, 2017 7:17PM (EDT)
Jay Sekulow (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Jay Sekulow (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Special counsel Robert Mueller's Monday announcement of a plea bargain with former Donald Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos for making false statements in an FBI interview seems to have definitively put to rest the long-standing claim from the Trump administration that no one affiliated with the president had engaged in any sort of coordination with people associated with the Russian government.

Then-deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders acknowledged how often she and her colleagues were repeating the line in a July news conference,"I think the point is that we’ve tried to make every single time, today and then, and will continue to make in those statements is that there was simply no collusion that they keep trying to create that there was," she said.

This talking point appears to be dead now in light of the announcement from Mueller that the former Trump aide had met and corresponded with a Russian professor who had assured him of "thousands of emails" from Trump's then-political rival, Hillary Clinton.

So, it was up to Trump's personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, to come up with a new line of attack against the investigation Monday in a CNN interview. In the process, he threw Papadopoulos under the front wheels of the metaphorical bus and also defended the idea of a Trump adviser maintaining relations with a hostile foreign power.

Asked by host Wolf Blitzer about whether the administration had reason to worry about what Mueller's investigation might uncover in light of Papadopoulos' access to top officials, Sekulow said he was "not concerned."

The Trump advisor, who was primarily known as a Religious Right lawyer before being hired on by the president, was quick to note that "these weren't activities that were illegal."

"If you look at what, again, George Papadopoulos's plea is, the actual plea that he entered into was, again, a false statement about a timing as to when he talked to somebody about Russian activities," he said.

Sekulow continued, trying to portray Papadopoulos's contacts as perfectly normal, "That is, in and of itself, a conversation that someone would have regarding a foreign government whether it was Great Britain, Russia, or anybody else, those are not illegal activities," he said. "That's not an inappropriate activity."

Sekulow then stressed that Papadopoulos' true crime was to have misled investigators. "The crime was lying about the timing of it [his calls to the Russian professor] to the agent." Yes, that was the true crime. Yes.

Matthew Sheffield

A writer, web developer, and former tv producer, Matthew Sheffield covers politics, media, and technology for Salon. You can email him via or follow him on Twitter.

MORE FROM Matthew Sheffield