- President Donald Trump’s personal defence lawyer, John Dowd, claimed he authored a controversial tweet from Trump’s Twitter account this weekend.
- The tweet seemed to indicate that Trump was aware, when he fired former national security adviser Michael Flynn in February, that Flynn had lied to the FBI about his Russian contacts.
- If true, the revelation could dramatically bolster the obstruction-of-justice case the special counsel is building against Trump.
- Dowd’s explanation for the tweet raised new questions as well.
President Donald Trump’s personal defence lawyer, John Dowd, said this weekend that he was the one who drafted Trump’s controversial tweet about former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI,” said a tweet sent from Trump’s account on Saturday. “He has pleaded guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”
When Business Insider reached out to Trump’s lead defence attorney, Ty Cobb, on Saturday, Cobb referred questions about the tweet to Dowd.
Dowd told Axios on Sunday that the tweet was “my mistake.”
“I’m out of the tweeting business,” Dowd said. “I did not mean to break news.”
Flynn was forced to resign as national security adviser in February, when it emerged that he had spoken to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak about US sanctions on Russia on December 29 – the same day President Barack Obama imposed the sanctions.
Trump told reporters at the time that he had been forced to fire Flynn because he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about those conversations. But the White House gave no indication at the time that it knew Flynn had lied to the FBI in a January interview about those conversations – a federal crime that Flynn pleaded guilty to on Friday.
Trump’s tweet on Saturday appeared to indicate that Trump was aware Flynn had lied to the FBI when he departed the administration in February. If Trump knew that Flynn was in the FBI’s crosshairs when he asked former FBI Director James Comey – whom he later fired – to consider “letting Flynn go” the day after Flynn resigned, that could bolster the obstruction case federal prosecutors are building against Trump.
The tweet also seemed inconsistent with what a person close to White House counsel Don McGahn told the New York Times on Friday. The person said that when former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned McGahn in January – 18 days before Flynn’s departure – that Flynn could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail, she did not mention that Flynn had committed a federal crime.
Dowd addressed Yates’ warning Sunday, telling Axios that when Yates went to the White House to warn McGahn about Flynn’s misleading statements, she told him that Flynn had “given the [FBI agents] the same story he gave the Vice President” about his contacts with Russians.
Dowd’s statement raises questions about why he would author a tweet claiming Trump fired Flynn in part because he lied to the FBI, while simultaneously maintaining that Trump did not know Flynn had made false statements to investigators at the time of his departure.
Several legal experts also pointed out that the tweet’s wording was inconsistent with that used by most experienced attorneys.
Good point. An experienced criminal defense attorney like Dowd would know that it’s proper to say that Flynn “pleaded guilty,” not “pled guilty.” https://t.co/ahqskI7nGm
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) December 3, 2017
Then Team Trump shouldn't mind releasing the email chain, texts or other proof Dowd sent the draft tweet, and explaining the Trumpian tone and characteristic errors ("pled" instead of "pleaded"). And don't claim privilege, Dowd statement to @mikeallen WAIVED it. https://t.co/L3YR48lxT3
— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) December 3, 2017
Dowd told Axios that “the point of the tweet was entirely correct. It’s just very sad. I don’t know why the guy lied. He didn’t need to.”
He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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