One of Trump’s lawyers has unexpectedly become the only firewall between him and Mueller

Jay Sekulow (R) Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • Jay Sekulow is now the leading figure on President Donald Trump’s legal team.
  • His role has expanded since he was first hired on last year, far surpassing what those close to him expected him to provide Trump when he was first retained.

Jay Sekulow is, in a sense, the last man standing on President Donald Trump’s legal team – and he’s now faced with tackling one of the biggest decisions confronting the president in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference.

Sekulow, a longtime conservative commentator who made a name for himself in religious freedom cases before the Supreme Court, finds himself as the president’s lone personal lawyer working full time on the Mueller probe, as The New York Times reported Sunday.

Sekulow finds himself in that position after attorney John Dowd quit last week, longtime Washington lawyer Joseph diGenova left the team following less than a week on the job, and White House lawyer Ty Cobb’s work on the probe mostly concluded, The Times noted.

Sekulow has been in talks with other lawyers about joining the team, The Times reported, but as it stands now, he’s the lawyer handling Trump’s possible interview with the special counsel.Meanwhile, The Daily Beast reported that roughly half a dozen attorneys affiliated with Sekulow’s legal group, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), have been helping Sekulow with the president’s case.

Trump sought to diminish the idea that he’s having trouble adding lawyers to his legal team, and said Sunday that he’s “very happy” with the existing team.

“Many lawyers and top law firms want to represent me in the Russia case…don’t believe the Fake News narrative that it is hard to find a lawyer who wants to take this on,” he tweeted. “Fame & fortune will NEVER be turned down by a lawyer, though some are conflicted.”

While Sekulow is now in a leading role with the probe, the lawyer has no experience in anything similar to the kind of battle that Trump is now facing.

Sekulow’s role has vastly expanded since he was first hired

Last year, during a stretch when Sekulow was making a number of TV appearances on behalf of the president,those who know him told Business Insider they were not surprised he was taking on Trump’s battle. Even though he has no experience in white-collar crime, some said he was the perfect choice to be the face of the president’s legal team.

Prior to joining Trump’s legal team, Sekulow had mostly transitioned from Supreme Court litigator to television pundit. Sekulow’s connections to conservative politics run deep, as he had influential roles as a Supreme Court adviser to former President George W. Bush and as an adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2008 and 2012.

A regular guest on Fox News host Sean Hannity’s program and on a number of Christian broadcasting programs, Sekulow even hosted his own podcast, “Jay Sekulow Live!”, along with his son, Jordan.

David French, a longtime friend and former colleague of Sekulow’s at the ACLJ, told Business Insider last year it made perfect sense for Sekulow to be on Trump’s team.

“I’m hearing all these people say ‘oh, well, Jay is not a white-collar criminal defence lawyer,'” French said. “They totally misunderstand the nature of this proceeding.”

He added that Sekulow’s ability to make “political arguments from a legal perspective” will prove integral to Trump’s case.

“So no, it doesn’t surprise me one bit that Trump would hire Jay or retain Jay for that purpose,” he said. “And I think people are missing the strategic intent behind it and the strategic sense of it.”

Now, however, Sekulow finds himself in a role that far surpasses that initial, narrower, purpose.