President Donald Trump’s personal defense lawyer, John Dowd, reportedly said it’s time for the special counsel Robert Mueller to be fired.
Dowd initially said he was making the statement in his official capacity as Trump’s attorney and representative.
He later walked back his comments in a major way, saying he was speaking in his own personal capacity and not as Trump’s lawyer.
Experts say the statement indicates the Russia investigation could be “headed for a full-blown crisis.”
President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer thinks it’s time Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein fire the special counsel Robert Mueller.
John Dowd, one of the attorneys leading the president’s defense team in the Russia investigation and the primary point of contact between Trump and Mueller, told The Daily Beast that Rosenstein should shut down Mueller’s investigation.
“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 [former FBI deputy director Andrew] McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier,” Dowd said in a text message, according to the report.
Sessions fired McCabe on Friday amid an internal Department of Justice investigation into his handling of the FBI’s investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to conduct government business. Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation last year. He also said before becoming Attorney General that if he was confirmed to the position, he would recuse himself from any investigations related to Clinton.
Dowd told The Daily Beast on Saturday that he was responding on behalf of Trump and in his capacity as Trump’s personal lawyer.
He also emailed the outlet a version of a line from the 20th-century play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof:
“What’s that smell in this room[Bureau}? Didn’t you notice it, Brick [Jim]? Didn’t you notice a powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity in this room[Bureau}?… There ain’t nothin’ more powerful than the odor of mendacity[corruption]… You can smell it. It smells like death.” Tennessee Williams – ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
Dowd later walked back his comment in a major way, telling CNN that he was acting in his personal capacity and not as Trump’s lawyer.
Dowd’s comments to The Daily Beast mark the first time a member of the president’s legal team has publicly called for the special counsel’s firing, and legal experts sounded the alarm on Saturday.
The statement “basically confirms McCabe’s statement from last night: that McCabe’s 11th hour termination from the FBI was directly tied to the Russia investigation, for which McCabe is a crucial witness,” said Jens David Ohlin, a vice dean at Cornell Law School and an expert on criminal law. “Dowd just confirmed it by connecting the two events and saying that Rosenstein should shut down the Russia investigation and ‘follow the brilliant and courageous example’ of AG Sessions.”
This is serious stuff,” the longtime former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti tweeted in response to the report. “Trump’s attorney, speaking on Trump’s behalf, is calling on Mueller to be fired. We may be heading to a full-blown crisis.”
Matthew Miller, a former spokesman for the Department of Justice under former President Barack Obama, tweeted, “Here it is, the point all of the attacks on law enforcement by Trump, Nunes, Fox News and the rest have been inevitably building to.”
“Red alert time,” he added.
Rosenstein has repeatedly and recently stated that Mueller is conducting the Russia investigation in an appropriate manner and within the mandate given to him by the Department of Justice.
Dowd’s comment came following reports this week that Mueller has subpoenaed the Trump Organization for documents related to its business dealings, including its push to build a Trump Tower in Moscow at the height of the presidential election.
Felix Sater, a Russian-born businessman and one of the individuals involved in the deal, said Friday that at the time, the Trump Organization was actively negotiating with VTB Bank, a sanctioned Russian bank to secure financing for the building.
VTB was initially added to the US’s Specially Designated Nationals List (SDN) in July 2014, which froze its assets in the country and restricted US citizens and companies from doing business with VTB and its subsidiaries. The US later imposed additional sanctions on VTB in December 2015.
Former federal prosecutor Patrick Cotter said Dowd’s statement Saturday could be “an “unintentional ‘tell’ that the Mueller investigation is getting close to sensitive evidence of a crime.”
“If I were Mueller I would be encouraged by the statement,” Cotter said. “Targets always squeal louder when the investigators get closer to the truth.”