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President Trump's Lawyer Jay Sekulow Weighs In On Mueller's Testimony

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Back to our top story today, Robert Mueller and his day on Capitol Hill fielding questions about the Russia investigation. Well, President Trump has thoughts on that testimony. He has weighed in on Twitter and then to reporters as he got ready to board a helicopter en route to a fundraiser in West Virginia.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This has been a very bad thing for our country. And despite everything we've been through, it's been an incredible 2 1/2 years for our country. The administration, our president, me - we've done a great job.

KELLY: For more on the president's position on today's proceedings, let's bring in his lawyer. Jay Sekulow joins me now. Welcome.

JAY SEKULOW: Hi. Thanks for having me.

KELLY: Glad to have you with us. And I want to start by putting to you a question that was front and center in today's hearings.

SEKULOW: Yep.

KELLY: Why wouldn't the president sit for an interview? Why wouldn't he fully cooperate if he has nothing to hide?

SEKULOW: He listened to the advice of his counsel, which was, obviously, my team. And we thought that they did not meet the threshold requirements under existing D.C. precedent - that is in the District of Columbia - that would qualify for a presidential interview. And that's especially true in light of the fact that we provided over 1,400,000 documents, 30 witnesses, thousands of hours of - or hundreds of hours of testimony. And there was no information that they could not have gotten from another source. So that's why we allowed - we argued that he should not have to, you know, submit to an interview.

KELLY: You may have been listening as Jerry Nadler, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, interrogated Mueller and said - and asked him, is it true that you advised an interview with the president would be vital to this investigation? Mueller said yes. Nadler said, is it true you also stated it's in the interest of the presidency and the public for an interview to take place? Mueller said yes.

SEKULOW: Yeah.

KELLY: Why did you disagree?

SEKULOW: Well, I'm the president's lawyer, so it was not in the interest of the president to submit to an interview, open-ended, by a special counsel's office that had already been provided, as I just said, hundreds of hours of testimony, millions of pages of documents.

KELLY: Do you disagree that it would have been in the interest of the public for the president to testify?

SEKULOW: I completely disagree because, first of all, there's no constitutional right to the interest of the public. There's a constitutional right regarding issues of executive privilege and when a president can be interviewed, then it meets the threshold. What Mr. Mueller should have said today, and he kind of did, was he decided not to pursue it. They could've pursued it; they did not. We never went to court over this issue.

KELLY: On the question of obstruction of justice, President Trump, as you know, has said over and over, no collusion, no obstruction. It's not what the Mueller report says. It is not what Robert Mueller said today. Why didn't President Trump tell the truth?

SEKULOW: The president did tell the truth. Robert Mueller had to correct his testimony.

KELLY: He's been asked, did the Mueller report exonerate him, and the president says, no, no obstruction.

SEKULOW: There was no obstruction because the Department of Justice only concluded that there was no obstructive acts. But let me be very clear on something, and that is...

KELLY: The Mueller report does not conclude that. I mean, can we just - on - for the record, does the Mueller report clear the president? Does it exonerate him?

SEKULOW: Yes, because they never brought - they never said that - they - and Bob Mueller said - he had to correct his statement when he went before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and said, I misspoke when I said but for the OLC opinion we would've thought there were criminal charges. He said, we did not make a criminal determination on culpability.

KELLY: Correct, which is not the same as, you know, clearing him.

SEKULOW: Oh, but prosecutors don't exonerate. And I'll say something. I appreciate the question because this whole issue of exoneration, frankly, is absurd. I think this was a mistake that they put - that somehow got through their editing process because a prosecutor has no authority to exonerate. You're innocent until proven guilty.

They flipped it here and said, we can't exonerate, therefore, we're not going to make a determination. That's just not the way the judicial system in the United States works, fortunately for everyone.

KELLY: One more question for you in the 30 seconds or so we have left.

SEKULOW: Sure.

KELLY: I know you put out a statement today saying the American people understand this is over, case closed. Others disagree. They are still waiting for it to come from the inspector general, the U.S. attorneys' office. They're looking forward to them. Are you?

SEKULOW: Oh, yes, because those are going to show what took place and how this investigation started in the first place.

KELLY: All right, we will leave it there.

Jay Sekulow, personal lawyer to President Trump, thanks so much for your time.

SEKULOW: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.