The only reason Lonsdale advocate/pastor/educator Clayton Wood was surprised to learn about Jay Sekulow’s new job is that Wood is a busy guy who hasn’t been watching much cable TV lately.
So, he missed his old friend/mentor/employer’s talk show debut last weekend as the newest member of Donald Trump’s legal defense team whose first assignment was to tell the world that the President of the United States is not under investigation. His task was complicated by a recent POTUS tweet:
“I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director. Witch Hunt.”
Thus Sekulow, an extremely successful constitutional lawyer/radio talk show host who first came into national prominence defending the free speech rights of an organization called Jews for Jesus to hand out leaflets in airports, got a quick baptism (total immersion, not the sprinkling kind) into the risky business of representing a guy who routinely undercuts and contradicts his spokespersons.
Can he avoid the pitfalls that have cast the likes of Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway into the White House doghouse and turned them into punching bags for late night comedians?
Wood – who is executive director of Thrive Lonsdale (an after-school mentoring program) and pastor of Lonsdale Community Church – is confident that his old friend and mentor will prevail.
“If you made a list of attorneys from New York who have successfully argued before the Supreme Court more than 10 times, that’s a very short list,” Wood said.
Plus, Wood believes decades of hosting a nationally syndicated right-wing radio call-in show make Sekulow not just qualified, but uniquely suited to be Trump’s mouthpiece.
“He has had to interact with the public on constitutional law and is able to take a subject that is very complex and make it understandable. Jay does a fantastic job of explaining.”
Wood is an East Tennessee preacher’s kid whose parents run a Christian children’s home in Pigeon Forge. He met Sekulow years ago through his parents and maintained the connection over the years.
When Wood completed law school at Washington and Lee in 2000, Sekulow offered him a job with the American Center for Law and Justice (founded in 1990 by Pat Robertson to serve as a conservative counterweight to the ACLU). Sekulow is executive director. Wood worked there for a decade before moving on to a position in the field of nanotechnology.
But eventually, he said, “God called me into ministry. I’d had no intention of doing that – my story is drag marks, not footprints in the sand. I had three job offers in the legal field, but God made it clear I was supposed to be working in international orphan care.”
Wood started a ministry called Allies for Orphans and worked in that field until he was called to work with families in Lonsdale in 2012. During this time, he has observed Sekulow from afar. And while some pundits are writing Sekulow off as Trump’s latest Baghdad Bob, Wood has great confidence in his old friend.
“Jay is a gifted communicator who can make himself understood. His genius is in explaining constitutional law to lay people. This is the first time his client has been the president. And Donald Trump is a unique client. It demonstrates something wise about Trump that he selected Jay,” whom he describes as having thick skin.
“There’s absolutely no chance he took this position without expecting criticism and backlash.”
Wood is too busy with work and family to devote a lot of time to following the goings-on in D.C., but he believes in Sekulow.
“No one wants to take on something that is, ‘Oh gosh. I’m going to go get my brains beat in.’ Jay likes to take on winners and I think this is a constitutional law winner.”