President Donald Trump’s private lawyer Jay Sekulow on Monday distanced Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign from new charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, along with a business associate, faces a 12-count indictment. And former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty earlier in October to making false statements to FBI agents, according to documents unsealed Monday.
Sekulow on CNN said the allegations in the indictments against Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates “are focused on their business activities, not campaign activities, not campaign events.”
“The charges that have been leveled, Wolf, focus in on FARA registrations, tax evasion, money laundering,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, referring to the Foreign Agents Registration Act. “I mean, these are serious charges, no question, but they’re not charges that involve the campaign.”
Sekulow said he is “not concerned” that Papadopoulos’ guilty plea could imply possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“I’m not concerned about it because if you look at what, again, George Papadopoulos’s plea is, what the actual plea deal they entered into is, again, a false statement about timing as to when he talked to somebody about Russian activities,” Sekulow said.
“It wasn’t, by the way, these weren’t activities that were illegal. It wasn’t the conversation that they had,” he added.
Manafort and Gates were charged with conspiracy to launder money, false and misleading FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act) statements, false statements, conspiracy against the U.S. and failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.
Papadopoulos earlier in October pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents about his contacts with Russian nationals. According to Papadopoulos’ statement of guilt, he regularly informed other members of the Trump campaign about those communications, which continued through at least August 2016.
Sekulow on Monday distanced Trump’s campaign from Papadopoulos.
“George Papadopoulos served on a committee. As you know, campaigns have committees with various people on it,” he said. “He was not a senior adviser to the Trump campaign.”
“If a campaign adviser to the candidate is trying to get ‘dirt on Hillary Clinton’ from Russians, is there anything wrong with that?” Blitzer asked.
“It’s not illegal to get opposition research,” Sekulow replied.
“I’m talking about from Russia. That’s from foreign adversaries from the United States,” Blitzer pressed.
“I don’t know if it was from Russians,” Sekulow replied. “The only thing I know is about George Papadopoulos, frankly, is what’s in the actual indictment. I don’t know George Papadopoulos, I have not spoken with his lawyers, so I don’t know the nature and the scope of his full engagement with his lawyers, what they were dealing with.”
Sekulow repeated that he is “not concerned” about the charges.
“We are not, I’m not concerned about this at all and no one else is either on my side of things,” he said.
“Is there any chance at all that the President will try to fire Robert Mueller?” Blitzer asked.
“No. You know, I saw a couple of people talking about that this morning, and the answer to that is no,” Sekulow replied. “The President is not interfering with the special counsel Mueller’s position. He’s not firing the special counsel.”
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