Political News

Trump's personal legal team opposed family separation

Posted June 22, 2018 1:53 p.m. EDT

— Two of President Donald Trump's personal lawyers on the Russia investigation broke ranks with their client this week on an entirely unrelated topic, rejecting his now-abandoned practice of separating undocumented immigrant families at the border.

Jay Sekulow, the longest-serving member of Trump's legal team handling the Russia investigation, denounced the controversial practice Thursday on his talk radio show.

"My grandfather dragged suitcases with his family when he came through Ellis Island, and many of you that are listening to this broadcast have similar histories in your family, but we are the United States of America, we can do better than this, we can figure this out," Sekulow said.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the most outspoken member of Trump's legal team, also voiced his opposition to family separation, three days before Trump signed an executive order that he said would allow families detained at the border to stay together.

"I don't like to see, and I know President Trump doesn't like to see, children taken away from their parents," Giuliani said last Sunday morning on CBS News' "Face the Nation."

But Giuliani also said Trump was not acting all that differently from former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who faced similar waves of young immigrants illegally crossing the southern border during their time in office. But he also noted that "this administration is doing it more thoroughly."

Bush and Obama oversaw occasional crackdowns on illegal border crossings and did separate adults and children under circumstances like suspected fraud or trafficking. But neither of Trump's predecessors adopted an across-the-board policy of zero-tolerance that systematically split up thousands of families.

Sekulow and Giuliani, both Republicans, also said this week that they support a pathway to citizenship for most of the millions of undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.

"I'm a big supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, including -- now, I know I'm going to have a lot of bad letters after this -- including path to citizenship," Giuliani said.

Trump has proposed a path to citizenship for nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants brought to the US by their parents. But he has spoken out against across-the-board citizenship because, he says, it is a ruse for Democrats to add voters to the rolls, assuming that most of the Hispanic immigrants would vote Democratic.

During Sekulow's radio show, he laid into Congress, calling it "absurd" that Republicans could not pass a comprehensive immigration solution while having control of both chambers of Congress.

"This internecine warfare that's going on in the party ... is ridiculous," Sekulow said. "They are fighting on the floor of the House, and this is embarrassing at this point. We need action."

An ardent conservative, Sekulow usually devotes airtime to praising Trump and his policies, like pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal or moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. He has also railed against former FBI Director James Comey in the wake of last week's Justice Department report that rebuked his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

In addition to Sekulow and Giuliani, another attorney with a lot of experience in Trump's orbit also came out against the family separation policy this week.

Trump's longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen called it "heart wrenching" in a statement announcing his resignation as a deputy finance chair for the Republican National Committee. Cohen has not been involved in Trump's legal defense in the Russia investigation and faces scrutiny of his own by special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in New York.