Donald Trump 'not under investigation' but cannot be certain, President's lawyer says

Donald Trump 'not under investigation' but cannot be certain, President's lawyer says

Donald Trump 'not under investigation' but cannot be certain, President's lawyer says

Updated 19 June 2017, 8:05 AEST

One of Donald Trump's personal lawyers tells reporters the President is not under investigation for obstruction of justice, but when pressed on the assertion, says he cannot be certain.

One of Donald Trump's personal lawyers has told reporters the President is not under investigation for obstruction of justice, but when pressed on the assertion, said he could not be certain.

"The fact of the matter is the President has not been and is not under investigation," Jay Sekulow, a new member of Mr Trump's legal team, said on CBS' Face the Nation in one of four interviews he gave on Sunday.

There have been multiple news reports and a tweet from Mr Trump himself on Friday that began with: "I am being investigated."

When challenged on Fox News Sunday about the issue, Mr Sekulow said he could not be certain Mr Trump was not under investigation, but that no one had notified the legal team if that was the case.

It is common for subjects of federal investigations not to know they are under scrutiny, especially in the initial phases.

A source familiar with the Mueller investigation said on Thursday that investigators would have to gather a large amount of evidence before an interview with the President would be warranted.

Mr Trump, who has denied any collusion between his campaign and Russia, has frequently lashed out about the allegations, which have overshadowed his administration's efforts to overhaul the healthcare system, cut taxes, and boost jobs.

Robert Mueller, the special counsel named by the Justice Department to probe the Russia matter, is investigating whether anyone associated with Mr Trump or his campaign had any illegal dealings with Russian officials or others with ties to the Kremlin. Russian officials have denied meddling in the US election.

The source familiar with the Mueller probe told reporters that Mr Mueller was also examining whether Mr Trump or others tried to interfere with the investigation.

'I cannot read the mind of the special prosecutor'

Mr Sekulow said Mr Trump's tweet was in reaction to a story in The Washington Post, which was the first to report Mr Mueller was examining whether Mr Trump had tried to obstruct the probe by firing FBI director James Comey in May.

Mr Sekulow acknowledged that he could not be certain that the report was false.

"I cannot read the mind of the special prosecutor," he said.

Mr Sekulow, a conservative activist and radio talk-show host, earlier this month joined Mr Trump's legal team, which is led by Marc Kasowitz.

Barak Cohen, a former Justice Department lawyer and now a defence attorney specialising in white-collar crime and investigations, said there was no requirement that the special counsel notify Mr Trump he was under investigation, so the lack of such notice meant nothing.

He said, however, that Mr Sekulow's comments could mean the White House was taking the position that no investigation exists until Mr Mueller's team officially confirms it, disregarding media reports based on anonymous sourcing.

Mr Cohen said the first official communication that a target was under investigation typically came when prosecutors began requesting documents and other evidence. At that time, defence lawyers often will ask about their clients' status.

Prosecutors will often answer then to avoid misleading the target. They may not answer if they are trying to build a case and develop further evidence.

"No answer is probably the most troubling answer in criminal defence," Mr Cohen said.

Reuters