John Dowd has urged President Trump not to sit down for an interview with Robert Mueller. Now Dowd is leaving Trump’s legal team because the president won’t take his advice.
President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer representing him in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe has resigned after concluding that Trump was ignoring his advice, according to a report by The New York Times.
Dowd, a longtime Washington defense attorney, was brought on to defend the president last June following the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the appointment of Special Counsel Mueller. Starting in August, Dowd repeatedly told reporters and the president himself that he expected to the investigation — or at least the part of it focusing on Trump — would be ending “soon” while encouraging Trump to be cooperative.
In his tenure, John Dowd:
— was one of the lawyers overheard discussing the special counsel's investigation at a popular Washington restaurant.
— claimed he wrote the tweet about Trump firing Flynn bc he lied to the VP and FBI
— claimed the president can't obstruct justice
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) March 22, 2018
However, as the probe dragged on and indictments began to hit well-known Trump campaign veterans Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort along with lesser-known figures like George Papadapolous, Dowd appeared to become more conservative in his approach.
In January, President Trump said he was “looking forward” to a sit-down interview with Mueller’s team and even vowed to testify under oath. Dowd was quick to say that there had not been any decision yet about whether Trump would agree to an interview and that when that decision would be made, it would be his decision — not Trump’s.
But Trump famously hates being told what to do and resents anyone under him who gives the impression that they are the ones calling the shots.
Behind the scenes, Trump resisted Dowd’s instructions. Although the president stated publicly that the decision was subject to his lawyers, privately Trump has argued with his legal team. He reportedly believes that his experience in business-related court cases will allow him to navigate whatever Mueller throws at him.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Amid legal team shake-up, Trump says he ‘would like to' testify before special counsel Robert Mueller.
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) March 22, 2018
Trump’s friends, allies, and lawyers are concerned the president does not understand the stakes and could be walking into a “perjury trap” given his penchant for confidently lying.
Over the weekend, Dowd said Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should fire Mueller and end the “manufactured Russia probe.” He initially said he was speaking on behalf of the president in that statement, then later claimed he was actually only speaking personally.
That led Republican Chair of the House Oversight Committee Rep. Trey Gowdy to admonish Dowd on Fox News.
“If you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it,” Gowdy said.
What Dowd’s resignation means for the Mueller probe is difficult to surmise.
On one hand, it could be a sign that Trump is planning to ignore the advice of his lawyers and sit down with Mueller. On the other, Trump just added former federal prosecutor and right-wing conspiracy theorist Joseph diGenova to his legal team.
DiGenova believes Trump is being “framed” and has frequently called for FBI and Department of Justice officials to be investigated for corrupting the 2016 presidential election.
“I would consider this the largest law enforcement scandal in history for this reason,” diGenova told Sean Hannity last month.
DiGenova’s hiring could be taken as a sign that Trump is preparing to step up his attacks against the Department of Justice and perhaps move to oust Mueller. Then again, it could also mean Trump is prepared to sit for a Mueller interview to show his willingness to cooperate before taking steps to discredit the probe and its findings.
Dowd’s resignation though does seem to make one thing clear: when it comes to the Mueller probe, Trump intends to finish this on his own terms — not his lawyers’.