- Brendan McDermid/Reuters
- John Dowd, President Donald Trump’s former lead defense attorney, reportedly tried to help pay the legal fees for Paul Manafort and Rick Gates earlier this year.
- At one point, Dowd is said to have pledged $25,000 of his own money to help Manafort, but he backed down after Trump’s associates advised him against it out of fear that it could appear to be an attempt by the White House to interfere in the Russia probe.
- Dowd said he did not try to cover Manafort’s and Gates’ legal fees out of concern that they would cooperate, but rather because he cares “about a lot of people” and was “offended as a citizen and a lawyer.”
John Dowd, the defense attorney who formerly led President Donald Trump’s legal team, tried to help pay legal fees for Paul Manafort and Rick Gates earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
Dowd initially tried to use money from the White House’s legal defense fund and later solicited donors, sources familiar with the matter told The Journal. He even reportedly pledged $25,000 of his own money at one point but ultimately didn’t make the contribution.
Dowd told the Journal that he took those actions because he was opposed to how investigators had treated Manafort.
“I care about a lot of people,” Dowd said. “I was offended as a citizen and a lawyer.”
He added that he was not worried about Manafort and Gates becoming cooperating witnesses in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow.
Manafort pleaded guilty last week to two counts of obstruction and conspiracy and has since been cooperating with the special counsel.
Gates pleaded guilty in February to one count of conspiracy and one count of lying to the FBI and is also cooperating.
One day before Gates’ guilty plea, according to the Journal, Dowd emailed several Trump associates that Manafort and Gates needed more money to cover their legal expenses immediately, and that he was planning on giving $25,000 to Manafort’s legal defense fund the next day.
He said he backed after people advised against the move, warning it may look like an attempt by the Trump team to interfere in Mueller’s ongoing investigation.
After Manafort’s guilty plea was announced last week, The New York Times reported that Dowd emailed members of Trump’s legal team and said Manafort “has no info on president or campaign.”
This is not the first time Dowd’s name has cropped up in connection to speculation about whether the president’s legal team sought to prevent witnesses from talking to investigators.
Earlier this year, The Times reported that Dowd dangled pardons to Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn when speaking to their lawyers last summer. Flynn pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI and has been cooperating with Mueller since then.
Dowd resigned as Trump’s lead defense lawyer in March.