John Dowd, one of President Trump’s top lawyers, attempted in early 2018 to use money from the White House’s legal defense fund to bankroll legal fees for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates. The Wall Street Journal reports Friday that Dowd spoke with associates of the president about the idea at the beginning of 2018, and was rebuffed because Manafort and Gates faced charges in connection to conduct that predated the Trump campaign, which made them ineligible. In February, the day before Gates pleaded guilty and began cooperating with investigators, Dowd informed officials that he planned to donate $25,000 to Manafort’s defense fund. White House officials reportedly informed Dowd that providing money to Gates and Manafort would have a series of negative consequences: It could appear that the president was attempting to influence the investigation, that Manafort and Gates were more connected to the president than the public believed, or that the president was extremely concerned about Gates’ and Manafort’s fate. As a result of officials’ warnings, Dowd told the Journal, he eventually decided not to fund the pair’s defense. “Upon the advice I received,” Dowd said, “I did not make that contribution.” He left the White House the following month.
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