President Trump’s supporters have been quickly rewriting their talking points in the wake of today’s news that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and one of his associates have been indicted on money laundering and other charges and that George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with people tied to the Russian government.
One of the quickest turnarounds came from Jay Sekulow, a Religious Right activist and chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) who is also an attorney for Trump. In an interview with Wolf Blitzer, Sekulow insisted that Papadopoulos did nothing wrong in his contacts with foreign officials and that the only problem was that he had lied about them to the FBI. This summer, Sekulow had said in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity that there was “no evidence of Russian collusion” with the Trump campaign…a line that Trump himself was repeating as recently as this morning.
Earlier in the afternoon, Sekulow hosted his daily “Jay Sekulow Live” radio program, where both of his cohosts—his son Jordan Sekulow and ACLJ attorney Andrew Ekonomou—insisted that “collusion is not a crime” and is simply something that voters can pick and choose whether they want in a presidential campaign.
Jordan Sekulow downplayed the morning’s news, saying that “because the Manafort charges have nothing to do with the Trump campaign, the media wants to focus in on Papadopoulos because it’s got a little bit more of a connection because this happened during his time as an adviser” to the Trump campaign.
“Remember how we said collusion is not a crime?” Jordan said. “I think the Papadopoulos charges actually show that, that even trying to set up these meetings with Russians and doing all this work, that that alone is not a crime,” he said. “There’s no crime for that. You can politically decide if you like a campaign that does this or doesn’t do that. The crime here is perjury.”
Ekonomou later repeated the line that “collusion is not a crime,” saying it’s just that “you don’t lie about it to the FBI.”
“He was doing shuttle meetings with many different countries,” Jordan Sekulow added, referring to Papadopoulos, “he just left out the meetings with Russia, so for that he gets in trouble legally. But what I want to point out there is that, see, he was doing meetings with other countries and that is OK to do, there’s nothing wrong with that. If he would have been completely truthful, you could say, maybe, ‘I don’t like this,’ you could say, maybe, ‘This is not, I don’t like campaigns that would work these these foreign governments or communicate.’ That’s your political choice to make at the ballot box next time around.”