- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2018

Veteran defense attorney John Dowd, the lead lawyer for President Trump on the special counsel investigation, resigned Thursday amid the president’s increasingly combative stance against the Russia probe.

Sources said the president and Mr. Dowd were growing more frustrated with each other as Mr. Trump’s legal team considers whether to allow the president to be interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller. The president told reporters Thursday he still wants to talk to investigators.

“Sure, I would like to,” the president said. “I would like to.”

Mr. Dowd has been urging cooperation with the special counsel’s probe, although he and others on the president’s legal team have been publicly downplaying the likelihood of Mr. Trump testifying.

In an email to The Washington Times, Mr. Dowd didn’t elaborate on his reasons for quitting.

“I love the president and wish him well,” Mr. Dowd said.

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon said Thursday that Mr. Dowd was fired for being too cooperative with the Mueller probe.

“I think President Trump is going to war on this,” Mr. Bannon said at an event in New York City hosted by the Financial Times.

Sources close to the president’s legal team said Mr. Trump was growing more dissatisfied with Mr. Dowd’s advice, and also said that Mr. Dowd was annoyed with the president’s hiring this week of attorney Joe diGenova for the legal team.

“The hiring of Joe diGenova was too much of a blow to Dowd’s ego,” said one source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “He felt he was being pushed out and decided to resign.”

Mr. diGenova, a former federal prosecutor and Fox News analyst, has been outspoken in his criticism of the Mueller probe and has accused the Obama Justice Department of plotting to “frame” Mr. Trump if he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016. He is a longtime friend of Jay Sekulow, another member of the president’s legal team.

“John Dowd is a friend and has been a valuable member of our legal team,” Mr. Sekulow said. “We will continue our ongoing representation of the president and our cooperation with the office of special counsel.”

Mr. Dowd’s departure is the biggest shake-up yet on the president’s legal team and came five days after Mr. Trump intensified his criticism of the Russia probe by going after Mr. Mueller by name for the first time. The change in tone followed Mr. Mueller issuing subpoenas for Trump Organization business records, a move that Mr. Trump has stated would be crossing a “red line” in the investigation.

The special counsel is investigating any potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election, and whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice by taking actions such as firing FBI Director James B. Comey last May.

“Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added … does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!” the president tweeted last weekend.

Mr. Trump also tweeted, “The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime. It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!”

Just last weekend, Mr. Dowd had publicly celebrated the firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and urged Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein to “bring an end to alleged Russia collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt dossier.”

Mr. Dowd first said he was speaking for the president, then backed off and said he was speaking for himself only. The New York Times reported that Mr. Trump was irritated with Mr. Dowd for backing off his initial statement, and felt it was handled clumsily.

There are signs that Mr. Trump isn’t finished making additions or changes to his legal team. Mr. Trump is said to be considering bringing back his longtime personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, who was on the legal team last year but left when Mr. Dowd took control of the operation.

“Kasowitz never really left,” the source said. “When there were higher profile, hot-button issues, the president would check with Kasowitz. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kasowitz is asked to take on a more active role going forward. This president is all about personal relationships. He has a very strong, longtime, personal relationship with Kasowitz. He trusts him.”

In recent days, the president reportedly has made overtures to veteran Washington lawyer M. Emmett Flood, who represented President Clinton during impeachment, to represent him. Former Bush administration solicitor general Ted Olson also was approached but apparently declined.

“Ted was never going to take that job,” the same source said. “Guys like Ted don’t need the hassle.”

Mr. diGenova will be joined on the president’s team by his wife, attorney Victoria Toensing. She represents an informant at the center of the Uranium One investigation being conducted by Republicans in Congress, and has called for a second special counsel to investigate the episode that took place when Mr. Mueller was director of the FBI.

The Uranium One case involves the Russian nuclear energy agency’s acquisition in 2010 of Uranium One, a company with licenses to extract U.S. uranium. The president has been critical of Hillary Clinton’s role in overseeing the transaction while she was secretary of state.

Democratic lawmakers, and some Republicans, have warned Mr. Trump again in recent days not to fire Mr. Mueller, Attorney General Jeff Sessions or top Justice officials, and to allow the special counsel’s investigation to run its course. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee said Thursday that any more firings would cross a red line.

“Mr. President, we are watching you,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat. “The American people are watching you. If you shut down or throttle the Mueller investigation, by firing either Sessions, Rosenstein, or Mueller, you will plunge this country into a constitutional crisis.”

Ty Cobb, Mr. Trump’s top lawyer in the White House on the Russia probe, reiterated last week that Mr. Trump is not considering firing Mr. Mueller.

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