Either Donald Trump has assembled some of the worst lawyers in recent memory, or Trump and his minions don’t care about appearing to obstruct justice.
Trump had his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, fire FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe just hours before McCabe was set to retire and receive a full pension after more than two decades at the bureau. Then, Trump bragged about the move on Twitter, taunting Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators by calling the firing “a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI” and a “great day for Democracy.” McCabe is said to be a witness in that probe.
On Saturday morning, Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, told The Daily Beast he hoped that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would “bring an end to [the] alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey.”
According to The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff, Dowd’s emailed statement said:
“I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier.”
Dowd’s comments follow a week in which it was revealed that Mueller’s team had subpoenaed the Trump Organization for documents relating to the Russia investigation.
After Dowd’s emailed statements were published, someone must have gotten in his ear, because he quickly sent a follow–up email stating that he was “speaking in his personal capacity, and not on the president’s behalf,” according to The Daily Beast’s version of events. That statement directly contradicted an answer Dowd gave Woodruff earlier in the morning in which he confirmed that he was commenting as Trump’s counsel.
This is not the first time Trump’s legal team has stepped in it. As The New York Times pointed out, last September, a Times reporter at a DC restaurant overheard Dowd debating with Trump lawyer Ty Cobb about response strategies for document and email requests made by Mueller.
In December, Dowd threw himself on a grenade for the president by claiming to have sent a tweet from Trump’s personal Twitter account in which the president appeared to admit to obstructing justice. “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI,” the tweet stated at the time.
Also in December, Cobb said rumors that Trump was seeking to fire Mueller were false. “As the White House has repeatedly and emphatically said for months, there is no consideration at the White House of terminating the special counsel,” Cobb said, according to The Hill.
Following this weekend’s exchange, the Times noted: “The comments by both Mr. Trump and Mr. Dowd lent credence to Mr. McCabe’s assertion that the president sees his firing as directly tied into Mr. Mueller’s case. Mr. McCabe, who is a potential witness in the investigation, declared that his dismissal was an attempt to undermine it.”
CNN’s Brian Stelter called Dowd’s comments “extraordinary.” “Whether or not he said it for the president or not, he’s the president’s lawyer,” Stelter said. “His entire job is to represent the president. That’s his entire job. So either President Trump needs to get a new lawyer or John Dowd was trying to send a message today.”
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer responded by tweeting, “Mr. Dowd’s comments are yet another indication that the first instinct of @realDonaldTrump and his legal team is not to cooperate with Special Counsel Mueller, but to undermine him at every turn…The president, the administration, and his legal team must not take any steps to curtail, interfere with, or end the special counsel’s investigation or there will be severe consequences from both Democrats and Republicans.”
Meanwhile, Rosenstein defended Mueller as recently as last Monday in an interview with USA Today. “The special counsel is not an unguided missile,” he said. “I don’t believe there is any justification at this point for terminating the special counsel.”