Transcript: Jay Sekulow on "Face the Nation," July 16, 2017

President Trump's troubles grew last week with the release of emails showing Donald Trump Jr. arranging a meeting with a Russian lawyer in 2016 in hopes of collecting damaging information about Hillary Clinton. 

Jay Sekulow, a member of Mr. Trump's legal team and chief counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice, joined "Face the Nation" Sunday. He discussed Trump Jr.'s meeting, and whether or not the president was aware of it.

What follows is a transcript of the interview with Sekulow, which aired Sunday, July 16, 2017, on "Face the Nation."


JOHN DICKERSON: Welcome back to "Face the Nation." Joining us now is Jay Sekulow, who is on the president's legal team. And he's also chief counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice. Mr. Sekulow, I want to start with this meeting with the president's son. The president said he didn't know about it. Are you confident that the president knows everything about all the meetings his son may or may not have had with any Russians?

JAY SEKULOW: Well, I know this. The president was not aware about this meeting, did not participate in this meeting. As far as other meetings go, look, the president has said that he was not aware of it, wasn't involved in it. And there's been no indication otherwise. So when you say, "Other meetings that took place," I'm sure they had conversations during the course of a campaign about meetings that were relevant to some kind of determination.

But this one was not. Not every- Most meetings were never discussed with the president. I mean, that's - that's normally how these go. So the president was campaigning. His staff was having meetings. And the president was not made aware of this nor participated in this meeting.

JOHN DICKERSON: Is it possible as the president's lawyer to say the president knows of no other meetings with his campaign staff and Russians?

JAY SEKULOW: Yeah the president told me- I'm not going- Obviously the president has been very clear on that. He said he has- had no meetings, was aware of no meetings with Russians, was not aware of this one until really right before it all broke. And that's what the president said. And in fact there's been no information to the contrary. So he's been very clear on that.

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Jay Sekulow on "Face the Nation," July 16, 2017.

CBS News

JOHN DICKERSON: What would be the best thing as far as the for the president's- As the president's lawyer, what would be the best thing that his son could do in terms of answering questions about this meeting?

JAY SEKULOW: Well, I think he did it. When - Donald Trump Jr. did it when he went on Sean Hannity. Look, he released all of the emails, including the entire chain of emails. So that was a lot. And then he went on and explained what happened at the meeting, discussed the - the nature of the meeting, that it was not based on- it was supposed to be about opposition research and ended up not being on that.

The individual -the individuals that were involved in the meeting ended up going right down to Washington to still lobby on the Magnitsky Act and that whole issue of Russian sanctions. So, again, it was kind of- the meeting was under a false pretense in a sense. And I think he was very clear. Donald Trump Jr. answered questions and said he would continue to if needed to.

JOHN DICKERSON: Would it- And so would it help the president's case if he testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee and others who's asked for him to testify?

JAY SEKULOW: Well that, well, look. That's a conversation that would take place between Donald Trump Jr. and his lawyer. He said he's willing to talk about it. He's willing to testify. I'm not going to get into particulars of what that testimony would - would be involved. I'm not his lawyer.

JOHN DICKERSON: Do you- The AP is reporting that the lobbyist who was in the meeting said that the president's son was given a portfolio of information. Do you know anything about that?

JAY SEKULOW: No, I don't. I don't know what information was allegedly left, if - if any. But the discussion was about the Magnitsky Act. So it may well could - So if there was anything, it could have been about the Magnitsky Act. And he also said he didn't know-- the individual that was there, the Russian American said he-- I read that same AP report. And he said he doesn't know if there was anything in it. And I don't even know if anything was left. But I have no knowledge of what that would have been. But, again, the conversation was on the Magnitsky Act.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you. As somebody who knows something about national security, you've written about it. Back in June of 2016, leaving aside, there was no question of collusion at that time in the public record. But meeting with somebody who was offered and advertised as an agent of the Russian government, wouldn't that have been something that if you were advising the campaign, you would say, "Russia is an enemy of the United States. Don't take this meeting"?

JAY SEKULOW: Well, look. I'm, I'm -  I wasn't their lawyer then. I didn't represent the campaign. And I don't like to look at hindsight on how you do it. Donald Trump Jr. himself said he would do the meeting. If he had to do it all over again, there are things he would do differently. So that's how you look at it.

I mean, opposition research in campaigns happens all the time. You had the situation with the Ukrainians doing the same thing with the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. So, again, I don't look at any of this in a vacuum. You look at it at the time.

It was in the middle of a campaign. And, again, I'm not their lawyer. I was not the campaign lawyer. I'm not the campaign lawyer. I represent the president. I need to be clear on this. The president's engagement on this was that he was not aware and did not participate in any of this.

JOHN DICKERSON: But he--

JAY SEKULOW: So I want to be really clear on that. And I appreciate you letting me just say that. Thanks.

JOHN DICKERSON: Absolutely. But on - on this question of what, what people were thinking about the Russians in the summer of 2016, I mean, you wrote a book called The Unholy Alliance about the Russians. Vladimir Putin is on the cover. And so it's not like this is the same as the Ukrainians. This is a - the previous nominee of the Republican Party said the Russians were America's number one geopolitical foe. So shouldn't that have raised red flags just from a national security standpoint?

JAY SEKULOW: Well, look I think- I think Don Jr., you know, addressed that, saying if he was looking at it, he would look at it differently now or handle it differently. But, again, in the heat of the campaign, it's easy to be-- I'm the lawyer. He's not a lawyer. I deal with the legal issues.

He was helping the campaign. So I understand exactly the question you're asking. Look. The president went to Vladimir Putin at the G-20 and talked about this. It's not as if the president's not addressing this. And he's addressed it publicly, about his concerns with Russian engagement generally. And he asked Putin about it twice.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you. When we last talked, you said the president is not under investigation. Is that still your case? And how do you know it to be the case?

JAY SEKULOW: Well, we've had no notification from the special counsel. Nothing's changed since James Comey said three times to the president that he was under investigation. We've had nothing to the contrary since then.

JOHN DICKERSON: And nothing from any of the Senate investigative committees that would suggest the president is under investigation?

JAY SEKULOW: Correct. Nothing to the president at all.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Jay Sekulow, thanks so much for being with us. And we'll be right back.