Trump and his team can’t decide whether or not the president is under investigation. They can’t decide whether media reports about the investigation are fake news, or whether they justify the president firing off missives from his turbocharged Twitter account. They can’t decide whether Trump fired FBI Director James Comey of his own volition or on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. They can’t decide whether Trump welcomes the investigation as a chance to clear his name or disdains it as a kangaroo court.
The president isn’t under investigation, Sekulow told John Dickerson, “because we've received no notice of investigation. There has been no notification from the special counsel's office that the president is under investigation.” While there’s no guarantee that Sekulow is telling the truth, or even that he’s in the loop, this is plausible—though it doesn’t explain the lawyer telling Wallace that “now he's being investigated by the Department of Justice because the special counsel under the special counsel relations reports still to the Department of Justice.”
Instead, Sekulow argued that Trump was simply reacting to a report in The Washington Post stating that the Mueller, a former FBI director, was investigating the president for obstructing justice. This, too, is plausible—though not encouraging. Why would the president attack his own deputy attorney general publicly and lend credence to a report that he (allegedly) did not know to be true? And moreover, how can the president lambaste the press for pumping anonymously sourced “fake news” at the same time that he is taking anonymously Washington Post reports at face value?
In fairness to Sekulow, Trump’s “I am under investigation” tweet was befuddling, in that none of it is true. On the one hand, he seems to be referring to Rosenstein as “the man who told me to fire the FBI Director”; yet it is Mueller, not Rosenstein, who is (depending on whether you believe the conflicting reports of Jay Sekulow, Donald Trump, and Jay Sekulow) investigating Trump. It is true that Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel, and it is also true that he alone has the power to fire Mueller, though Sekulow’s claim that Trump is “being investigated by the Department of Justice because the special counsel under the special counsel relations reports still to the Department of Justice” is the sort of reasoning that gives legalese a bad name.
But what about Trump’s claim that Rosenstein told him to fire Comey? That, too, is subject to dispute. Rosenstein is an accomplished lawyer, and his memo reads as very carefully worded, unmistakably pointing toward firing Comey without ever making that explicit. But then again, who cares what Rosenstein wrote? Trump told Lester Holt in May not only that the decision was his alone, but also that he’d come to it before he received the memo.