How does Donald Trump’s lawyer define collusion? That it’s not illegal and nobody he knows has done it. And you know what else Jay Sekulow told a gaggle of reporters after his speech Saturday night at the Western Conservative Summit? There has been no discussion of Trump pardoning himself or anyone else, the national news of the day Saturday.
Trump mentioned the “complete power to pardon” in a tweet Saturday morning, leading to speculation that he might pardon himself, family members or those in his administration if matters worsen in the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russian meddling in his win last year.
“We have not had any discussions about pardons, so I don’t know where this came from, but this is not a discussion the legal team has had with the president,” Sekulow said. “There’s nothing to pardon, that’s number one.
“And, number two, it’s interesting the discussion about the presidential authority to pardon. Article II power in the Constitution, I think, speaks for itself. I think it’s an interesting academic discussion going on right now about whether the president can pardon himself or not pardon himself, but here’s a fact: We’re not researching it, because it’s not an issue. I want to put that to rest, because that is just not correct.”
Asked for his definition of collusion by Colorado Politics, Sekulow replied, “There’s no evidence of colluding by anybody … I’m not disparaging that people are using it, but I’ve said this more times than I can count, no one has yet to show me, or anyone, a statute of law that’s been violated or alleged to have been violated.”
News broke on Thursday that Trump’s lawyers and aides were investigating the backgrounds of the team assembled by special prosecutor Robert Mueller looking into Trump associates’ dealings with Russians. The strategy would be to discredit investigators, possibly by their past donations to Democratic candidates.
“Any lawyer will always evaluate the potential for any conflicts that might arise in case, and this would be no exception,” Sekulow said dismissively.
He said campaign contributions could represent a conflict that could be reported “in the proper venue … if there’s animus.”
“We always look at the totality of the circumstances,” Sekulow said.
Sekulow fielded a question about the Masterpiece Cake case, in which Lakewood bakery owner refused to decorate a cake for a same-sex couple, pending before the Supreme Court.
“It’s an important case,” he said. “The issue, I think, comes down to Justice Kennedy, so it’s 5-4, probably, one way or the other.”
He opined, though only slightly, on the Douglas County school voucher program, which would include accredited religious-affiliated schools. The U.S. Supreme Court last month handed the case back to the Colorado Supreme Court, which in 2015 held that the proposal violated the state constitution.
Sekulow spoke about its potential impact on the Blaine Amendment, which blocks government money for religious institutions. The U.S. Supreme Court last month, while it stopped short of a repealing the amendment, ruled that religious organizations in some cases qualify for generally available government programs.
“I’m optimistic voucher programs will be held constitutional,” Sekulow said, adding it’d take another case to kill the Blaine Amendment completely.
On the Johnson Amendment, the IRS code that keeps money from tax-exempt churches out of politics, he said if tax-exenpt labor unions can do it, why can’t churches?
“Free speech is a two-way street,” Sekulow said. “If the price of freedom is that you’re going to hear things and see things you disagree with, we live in a constitutional republic, and that goes with the territory, so I’m not concerned about a group that has a contrary view … than I have having the right to say it.”