One of the top lawyers to represent President Trump — up until six months ago — is reported to have once floated the idea of diverting money from the White House legal defense fund to cover Paul Manafort and Richard Gates’ legal fees, according to a recent report published by the Wall Street Journal.
Prior to his resignation in March, John Dowd was primarily known for his role as the lead attorney backing Trump in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 Presidential Election. Several key developments have taken shape since Dowd’s exit from the team, including the conviction of Manafort on eight counts of bank and tax fraud. This comes only weeks before Manafort struck a plea deal to avoid a trial that would have sought to prosecute him for witness tampering and failure to register as a lobbyist for a foreign country.
The heat that the President’s circle faced was already intensifying in the days approaching Dowd’s agreement to move on. In fact, Dowd’s unceremonious departure came nearly one month to the date that Gates flipped and began cooperating with Mueller — so as to have false statements and conspiracy charges that were weighing against him dropped. The president’s former attorney may have not been in hot water himself at the time, but it is now being reported that at some point during his tenure beside the President, Dowd suggested that the office extend itself to assist Manafort and Gates by funneling state funds to their legal defense.
According to unnamed sources allegedly in contact with the administration as well as the WSJ, the idea was swiftly batted down by those surrounding Dowd at the time. The advisors he proposed the move to reportedly objected on the basis that the crimes alleged to have been committed by Manafort and Gates predated their work in the White House — thus discounting them from being eligible for money coming out of the White House legal defense fund.
What’s more, Dowd’s advisors are said to have turned the suggestion down out of fear that it could be perceived as payment to hush Manafort and Gates. Friday’s report quotes Dowd as confirming that he indeed did bring the idea up for consideration, but that he stopped short of moving forward despite his disagreement with the special counsel’s proceedings. “Upon the advice I received, I did not make that contribution,” Dowd is reported as saying.
Ultimately, Dowd decided it best to back off of the investigation. It would be some time before Dowd completely abandoned the notion, however, with anonymous sources informing the publication that he went so far as to raise donations from Trump associates to help support Manafort and Gates — complete with a pledge that he’d be willing to put up $25,000 of his own money.