'I love the president': John Dowd quits as Trump lawyer in Mueller investigation

  • 77-year-old lead attorney confirms exit from White House team
  • Dowd said on Saturday he hoped Russia investigation would end

John Dowd, Donald Trump’s lead lawyer in the Mueller investigation into Russian election interference and alleged links between Trump aides and Moscow, resigned his role on Thursday while protesting his “love” for the president.

In an email to the Guardian, Dowd confirmed his departure and said: “I love the president and wish him well.”

The 77-year-old left Trump’s legal team days after the hiring of Joseph DiGenova, a cable news commentator and former US attorney who has claimed the Mueller investigation is an attempt to frame the president, carried out by the FBI and Department of Justice.

The shake-up comes with special counsel Robert Mueller reportedly closing in on an interview with Trump and less than two weeks after the president insisted on Twitter he was “VERY happy” with his legal team and said his lawyers were “doing a great job”.

Dowd attracted unwanted attention on Saturday, in the aftermath of the firing on Friday of the former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe. As Trump saluted McCabe’s firing as “a great day for democracy”, Dowd told the Daily Beast he hoped Mueller’s investigation would now be shut down.

In an email, Dowd said “I pray” that the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller, “will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility [OPR] and attorney general Jeff Sessions”, who fired McCabe.

That, Dowd said, would “bring an end to alleged Russia collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt dossier”.

Dowd first said he was speaking for the president but then rowed back, telling outlets including the Guardian he had spoken in a personal capacity. He then told Axios that Trump “didn’t have any problem” with his statement.

Trump has been more aggressive in attacking the Mueller investigation, recently mentioning the special counsel by name for the first time. On Thursday the New York Times cited “two people briefed on the matter” in reporting that Trump had disapproved of Dowd’s handling of his Saturday statement. The paper also said Dowd had counselled Trump not to sit down with Mueller, which the president wishes to do.

Asked whether he still wanted to testify before the special counsel n Thursday, Trump replied: “Yes. I would like to.”

Dowd had attracted controversy before. In December, he insisted “the president cannot obstruct justice” after Trump tweeted that he “had to fire [former national security adviser Michael] Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI”.

The tweet raised questions about whether Trump had attempted to obstruct justice when he asked the then FBI director James Comey to halt an investigation into Flynn the day after he was fired. Dowd later insisted he wrote the tweet in question, not Trump.

Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is one of three former Trump aides co-operating with Mueller after agreeing plea deals. The others are the former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos and former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates. The former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has pleaded not guilty to charges including money laundering and tax and bank fraud.

In February, Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals over the election interference campaign.

Before representing Trump, Dowd was best known for his role in Major League Baseball’s investigation of the all-time hits leader Pete Rose, for gambling. As a result of Dowd’s controversial report, Rose was banned from baseball and made ineligible for induction in the Hall of Fame.


Ben Jacobs in Washington

The GuardianTramp

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