Ultra-conservative website accuses Trump lawyer of taking “a bullet for his boss. Or perhaps a grenade.”
Trump’s Twitter feed lit up over the weekend in the wake of Friday’s bombshell news that Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI and was cooperating with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Of particular note was a Saturday tweet appearing on Trump’s feed stating: “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”
That tweet set media ablaze as it appeared to implicate Trump in obstructing justice.
Business Insider reported that: “Trump’s tweet on Saturday appeared to indicate that Trump was aware Flynn had lied to the FBI when he departed the administration in February. If Trump knew that Flynn was in the FBI’s crosshairs when he asked former FBI Director James Comey — whom he later fired — to consider ‘letting Flynn go’ the day after Flynn resigned, that could bolster the obstruction case federal prosecutors are building against Trump.”
NBC News reported that: “Within a few hours, Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, stepped in to say that he wrote the tweet, not the president.”
Dowd told NBC News that he drafted the tweet and then sent it to White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino to publish. When asked for the original email he sent to Scavino, Dowd said he dictated it orally.
George W. Bush’s top ethics lawyer, Richard Painter, weighed in on the matter on Sunday, tweeting that: “A lawyer who writes a Tweet like that incriminating a client should be disbarred. He can tell Mueller he wrote it.”
Attorney and University of New Hampshire professor Seth Abramson agreed with Painter, tweeting: “The John Dowd Situation, in three easy steps: (1) If Dowd used Trump’s feed to confess to Obstruction without telling Trump, he must be disbarred. (2) If Trump saw but didn’t stop/erase the tweet, he’s culpable for it. (3) If Dowd lied, he *and* Trump committed Obstruction.”
However, conservative website Forbes and others weren’t buying Dowd’s story. According to Forbes there are “three problems with this strange explanation.”
- “It suggests Trump’s attorneys are encouraging him to tweet on sensitive legal matters. (Yep, sounds like a solid legal strategy to me.)
- “Mr. Dowd would need direct access to the president’s private Twitter account. Well, I suppose that’s possible, but it would also suggest:
- “Mr. Dowd didn’t realize that the past tense of ‘plead’ is ‘pleaded,’ not ‘pled,’ as most first-year law students would know, and ‘pled’ was the wording used in the tweet. (Well, I suppose Dowd could be a young inexperienced lad, but turns out he was born in 1941 and played a key role in the Iran-Contra affair, among many others. Not exactly a young legal pup.)”
“Seems a whole lot more likely to me that the loyal attorney, sensing Mr. Trump’s legal jeopardy increasing by the second, took a bullet for his boss. Or perhaps a grenade.”
Others expressed similar doubts, such as Walter Shaub, who served in the Office of Government Ethics under presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and briefly under Trump and served as director of the agency from January 9, 2013 to July 19, 2017.
Responding to Painter’s tweet regarding Dowd’s possible disbarrment, Shaub tweeted: “I dare you to tell Mueller you logged into POTUS’s Twitter account and wrote ‘pled’ and the rest of that, John Dowd. I dare you.”
I dare you to tell Mueller you logged into POTUS’s Twitter account and wrote “pled” and the rest of that, John Dowd. I dare you. https://t.co/gDBnISywGS
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) December 3, 2017
Caroline O., @RVAwonk, who has been posting extensively about Trump, tweeted: “Trump’s lawyer claims that he composed this tweet. You know how I know that’s BS? In a Westlaw search of SCOTUS opinions, the word ‘pleaded’ is used in more than 3,000 of them. ‘Pled’ is used in only 26—and in many of those instances, the court was quoting someone else.”
Trump's lawyer claims that he composed this tweet. You know how I know that's BS?
In a Westlaw search of SCOTUS opinions, the word “pleaded” is used in more than 3,000 of them.
“Pled” is used in only 26—and in many of those instances, the court was quoting someone else. pic.twitter.com/AiOfwplvQl
— Caroline O. (@RVAwonk) December 4, 2017
However it pans out, things don’t look good for both Dowd and Trump, as Abramson pointed out when he tweeted: “The John Dowd Situation, in three easy steps: (1) If Dowd used Trump’s feed to confess to Obstruction without telling Trump, he must be disbarred. (2) If Trump saw but didn’t stop/erase the tweet, he’s culpable for it. (3) If Dowd lied, he *and* Trump committed Obstruction.”