Trump lawyer says it's an open question whether president could pardon himself
Jay Sekulow stressed that Trump legal team is not researching pardons.
Sekulow was responding to a question from ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" Sunday.
“We have not, and continue to not have conversations with the president of the United States regarding pardons. Pardons have not been discussed. And pardons are not on the table. With regard to the issue of a president pardoning himself, there’s a big academic discussion going on right now,” Sekulow said. “From a constitutional, legal perspective you can’t dismiss it one way or the other."
He added that he thinks such a question would ultimately have to go before the Supreme Court.
But Sekulow emphasized that the president's legal team is not looking into the question of pardons.
"We're not researching the issue because the issue of pardons is not on the table. There's nothing to pardon from,” Sekulow said. “We’re not researching it; I haven’t researched it because it’s not an issue we're concerned with or dealing with.”
Trump himself, however, brought up the issue of pardons in a tweet Saturday asserting that the president has "complete power to pardon."
In a later interview on “This Week,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., warned that if President Trump were to pardon himself or to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, “I think it would cause a cataclysm in Washington.”
“I cannot imagine our Republican colleagues, including [House Speaker Paul] Ryan and [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell, just standing by if he were to do either of those things,” the Senate minority leader said
In the Sekulow interview, Stephanopoulos pressed the lawyer about another of Trump’s tweets Saturday that asked why Attorney General Sessions and Mueller aren’t looking into what the president called "crimes" by former FBI Director James Comey and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
"[What] Comey crimes does the president believe the Justice Department or Mueller should be investigating?" Stephanopoulos asked.
Sekulow said the memos that Comey had written about his conversations with Trump and which he leaked through an associate after the president fired him were written on a “government computer” and were “in fact government property.”
“He took government property … and leaked them to the press,” Sekulow said.
In addition, the Trump lawyer said that Comey’s conversations with the president “would have been covered by executive privilege.”
“James Comey ignored that, did not give the president or anyone else at that point when he leaked the information the opportunity to assert that privilege,” Sekulow continued. “And I think that was not only a dereliction of his duties, I think it was a violation of his constitutional oath, and violated criminal statutes.”