Trump’s Lawyer Just Made the Most Misleading Statement I Have Ever Heard

Jay Sekulow

Jay SekulowSenate Television via AP

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

During the Senate impeachment trial Monday, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow made a bold claim. “Not a single witness,” he declared, “testified that the president himself said that there was any connection between any investigation and security assistance, a presidential meeting, or anything else.” While he talked, Trump’s legal team displayed a slide making a similar assertion: “NONE of the Democrats’ witnesses say President Trump linked investigations to security assistance or a meeting.”

And that’s true! Sort of. While Trump’s EU ambassador, Gordon Sondland, testified that there was indeed a quid pro quo—Ukraine’s president would get a meeting at the White House only after he announced investigations into Trump’s political foes—he acknowledged that Trump had not told him this directly.

But here’s the thing. Less than 24 hours ago, multiple news outlets reported that John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, wrote in a draft of his forthcoming book that yes, Trump really did link the military aid to an investigation of Joe Biden. According to the New York Times, Bolton wrote that Trump told him in August 2019 that “he preferred sending no assistance to Ukraine until officials had turned over all materials they had about the Russia investigation that related to Mr. Biden and supporters of Mrs. Clinton in Ukraine.”

And Bolton isn’t the only one. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney last year also appeared to acknowledge—while speaking to reporters on camera—that Trump had linked the Ukraine aid to his demands for an investigation into Democrats. (Mulvaney later tried to walk back that admission.)

So was Sekulow lying? Well, not exactly. Sekulow didn’t say that no Trump administration official had said that Trump told them about the quid pro quo. Instead, Sekulow said that no “witness” had “testified” that Trump had done so.

You see, Trump ordered Bolton and Mulvaney not to participate in the House impeachment inquiry, and—unlike many other administration officials—they chose to comply with the president’s demand. They were not “witnesses.” They have not “testified.”

Senate Democrats tried to subpoena Bolton and Mulvaney last week, but Republicans blocked that effort on a party-line vote. Democrats will soon have another opportunity to persuade a handful of Republicans to issue those subpoenas. If they succeed, Sekulow may need to find a new talking point. 

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.