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

Jay Sekulow

Jay SekulowSenate Television via AP

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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. 

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Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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