John Dowd, who previously helmed President Donald Trump’s personal legal team, is still actively advising his lawyers as they grapple with the Mueller probe.
Dowd, who left the president’s legal team in March of 2018, told Brian Kilmeade on his Fox News radio show on Jan. 14 that he speaks with Trump “every week or so.”
Dowd declined to tell The Daily Beast more about his interactions with Trump and his lawyers. But Rudy Giuliani, now a member of the team, said Dowd privately consults with Trump himself and his lawyers.
Giuliani said that in several conversations with his lawyers about the Mueller probe, Trump has asked, “What does John [Dowd] think?” All the instances came long after Dowd’s departure from the team, Giuliani added.
Since entering Trumpworld, Dowd has had a role in several of the White House’s thorniest legal questions. He tried to raise money for Paul Manafort's and Rick Gates’ legal bills when he was helming Trump’s legal team, according to The Wall Street Journal, and even discussed personally paying $25,000 to help them. And The New York Times reported that Dowd discussed the possibility of presidential pardons for Manafort and retired Gen. Michael Flynn with both men’s lawyers.
Dowd’s talks with the president and his legal team may not have been universally welcomed. One former White House official told The Daily Beast that Dowd’s chats with Trump drove White House lawyer Emmet Flood and Trump attorney Jay Sekulow “absolutely nuts.” Sekulow, however, told The Daily Beast he has never articulated this sentiment to anyone, and called Dowd a friend.
Giuliani described a conversation with Trump late last year about possible limits to cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, and which, if any, of the members of that team they could trust. When someone in the room brought up an idea, Trump responded, “I talked to John [earlier this week], and he thinks that is a good idea,” according to Giuliani.
On an informal basis, Dowd is still very much “a part of the team,” the former New York mayor added. “Absolutely.”
Giuliani said he usually talks to Dowd “twice a week,” and that they’ve been friends for more than 30 years.
Months before Giuliani blanketed cable news with his criticisms of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into any coordination between Trump associates and the Kremlin during the 2016 election, Dowd was an early critic of the investigation and Justice Department leadership. He called on Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to launch investigations of former FBI Director James Comey, the Clinton Foundation, and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
“[I]t appears the fix was in, a cover-up is in place and the reputations of the FBI and the Department of Justice are now tarnished and hang in the balance,” he wrote to Rosenstein on Sept. 1, 2017, according to the AP.
After then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired Andrew McCabe from the FBI on March 16, 2018, Dowd told The Daily Beast it was time for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to shut down the Mueller probe. The comment—quite striking in the pre-Giuliani era—drew outrage from congressional Democrats, who said they feared the probe was in imminent danger. Mueller, however, outlasted Dowd. And nine months later, his investigation is still chugging along.
And Dowd is still lambasting Justice Department leadership.
“So I wrote to Rosenstein and asked him, what the hell’s going on here? This guy is supposedly the main accuser and you’re not looking at him, what’s going on?’” Dowd told Kilmeade in the Monday interview. “Well, little did I know it appears they were all in it together: Rosenstein, Comey, Mueller, McCabe, the whole crowd. And they were out to get this president, no matter what.”
Dowd’s criticism comes as Trump is looking to re-tool the Justice Department. The president fired Sessions a day after the midterm elections, and his new pick for attorney general, Bill Barr, spent much of this past week on Capitol Hill working to secure his confirmation. Barr’s tone on Mueller is markedly different from Dowd’s; he discussed his long-time friendship with the special counsel during his confirmation hearing, and called completion of the probe “vitally important.”
Meanwhile, Rosenstein is expected to leave the department after Mueller files a report on his probe to the attorney general. Some outlets have reported that may come as soon as mid-February.