President Donald Trump’s lawyer on Saturday called on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to shutter special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s influence over the 2016 election.
“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,” said John Dowd, as first reported by the Daily Beast.
He initially told the news outlet that he was speaking in his official capacity as Trump’s lawyer. But he later retracted that statement, telling POLITICO he was commenting in his personal capacity.
Trump’s personal legal team declined to answer follow-up questions about Dowd’s remarks. White House lawyer Ty Cobb did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
This isn’t the first time Dowd has caused waves in the Russia probe. In early December he took the blame for a tweet from President Trump that appeared to admit knowledge that former national security adviser Michael Flynn had lied to the FBI before urging then-FBI Director James Comey to drop the Russia investigation.
Dowd later argued that Trump could not be found guilty of obstruction of justice because of his role as chief executive under the Constitution, an argument that many legal experts disputed. Dowd and Cobb also were embarrassed after a New York Times reporter who overheard them speaking about the Russia investigation at a Washington D.C. restaurant wrote about their conversation.
A prominent Washington white collar defense attorney who represented John McCain during the Keating Five Scandal and investigated Pete Rose for Major League Baseball, Dowd joined Trump’s legal team last June. He originally worked with Trump personal attorney Marc Kasowitz, though the president later revamped his legal team and added Cobb to handle White House-related matters tied to the Russia case.
The 77-year old attorney is known for his gruff manner — in 2011 he told CNBC outside a courthouse, “Get the fuck out of here” when asked for comment about the sentencing of a client, then gave the cameraman the middle finger.
“None of your business,” Dowd told POLITICO earlier this week when asked about the progress of talks for scheduling an interview between the president and Mueller’s investigators.
Dowd maxed-out his political contributions to Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign last year, CNBC reported last week, even giving more money than is legally permissible and requiring a refund.
Even if Dowd was speaking in a personal capacity Saturday, the statement nonetheless marked an escalation of efforts to question the validity of the probe. Trump has repeatedly said that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. But he has yet to publicly call for an end to the investigation, nor has he sought to fire Mueller.
“This is the Dowd Corollary to the Ty Cobb pledge of full cooperation,” said Sol Wisenberg, former deputy to Whitewater independent counsel Ken Starr. “The cooperation has been a required tactical move in a larger strategic game of removing Mueller. The mask is finally off and it is no surprise at all.”
The New York Times reported this week that Mueller subpoenaed the Trump Organization in recent weeks, raising the prospect that the probe is getting so close to the president that he could lash out and possibly seek to fire Mueller.
Asked during an interview with the Times last year whether Mueller examining his and his family’s finances would be a “red line,” Trump said, “I would say yeah. I would say yes.”
When pressed by reporters earlier this week about whether Mueller had crossed Trump’s red line, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders declined to comment. She again asserted that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and added, “We’re going to continue to fully cooperate out of respect for the special counsel.”
Following Dowd‘s statement Saturday, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) tweeted, “Every member of Congress, Republican and Democrat, needs to speak up in defense of the Special Counsel. Now.“
Dowd’s statement came just hours after Trump gloated on Twitter Friday night about Attorney General Jeff Session’s decision to fire former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
“Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy,” Trump tweeted. “Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!”
Dowd reportedly referenced the Trump tweet when he made his comment to the Daily Beast.
McCabe’s firing — and Dowd’s comments — raised alarms among Capitol Hill Democrats Saturday.
“Mr. Dowd’s comments are yet another indication that the first instinct of the president and his legal team is not to cooperate with Special Counsel Mueller, but to undermine him at every turn, “ said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “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.”
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) demanded that Sessions testify immediately before the Judiciary Committee to answer questions surrounding McCabe’s firing. “He must explain the DOJ’s process and whether this is an attempt to target, punish or silence those investigating Russia and the Trump campaign,“ she said in a tweet.
McCabe’s firing is formally connected to a still-unreleased inspector general’s report that has found he “made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions,” according to a Friday night statement from Sessions’ office.
But McCabe himself is linking the termination to a broader campaign to discredit him ahead of his potential cooperation with Mueller. McCabe told POLITICO in a pre-firing interview that House Intelligence Committee Republicans made a “selective mischaracterization” of his December testimony about the FBI’s use of the dossier to obtain a surveillance warrant against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
McCabe did not, however, connect his appearance in the House GOP memo to what he described as an attempt to impugn his credibility. And McCabe said contrary to Dowd’s claim that the Russia investigation was “based upon” the dossier, the probe was underway before the FBI had come to possess the document.
“[T]he investigative effort that ultimately led to the request for [surveillance] was initiated long before we ever had access to any of that” intelligence from Steele, McCabe said earlier this month.