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Lead Trump lawyer in Russia probe leaves team

By The Associated Press

This article was originally published March 22, 2018 at 10:59 a.m. Updated March 22, 2018 at 5:04 p.m.

in-this-april-29-2011-file-photo-attorney-john-dowd-walks-in-new-york

In this April 29, 2011, file photo, attorney John Dowd walks in New York.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's lead lawyer in the special counsel's Russia investigation resigned Thursday, shaking up the legal team just as Trump intensifies attacks on an inquiry he calls nothing more than a witch hunt.

The departure of attorney John Dowd removes the primary negotiator and legal strategist who had been molding Trump's defense. It also comes just days after the Trump legal team added a new lawyer, former U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova, who has accused FBI officials of being involved in a "brazen plot" to exonerate Hillary Clinton in the email investigation and to "frame" Trump for nonexistent crimes.

Dowd confirmed his decision in an email to The Associated Press, saying: "I love the President and wish him well." Dowd said he made the decision voluntarily, and he denied reports that his departure had to do with Trump ignoring his legal advice. Dowd said he formally resigned Thursday morning.

It already was a delicate time in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Trump's attorneys, including Dowd, have been negotiating with Mueller over the scope and terms of an interview of the president. Trump has told reporters that he was eager to speak with Mueller, but Dowd has been far more apprehensive, and the lawyers have not publicly committed to making Trump available for questioning.

Asked Thursday whether he still wants to speak with Mueller's team, Trump told reporters: "Yes, I would like to."

Over the weekend, Dowd issued a statement calling for an end to the investigation. The White House and later Dowd had to clarify the statement, saying the president's legal team wasn't calling for Mueller to be fired.

But Trump has stepped up his public criticism of Mueller.

In a series of tweets since last week, the president has said the investigation never should have started, that it was based on "fraudulent activities," that it was a "WITCH HUNT" and that it is being led by "13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters."

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said this week that the tweets were a reflection of Trump's frustration with the process of the investigation. She said the White House did not think firing Mueller would be "the most productive step forward."

Speaking on a panel Thursday at the Financial Times "Future of News" event in New York, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said the president has clearly decided to take a more aggressive approach with the special counsel.

"I think President Trump is going to war on this," Bannon said, noting that while in the White House he warned Trump that Dowd and White House lawyer Ty Cobb were being too soft.

This is at least the second major reshuffling of Trump's legal team in the last year. Dowd had taken over the lead lawyer role last summer from New York attorney Marc Kasowitz, who has long been by Trump's side.

Dowd has been working closely with another Trump lawyer, Jay Sekulow, who remains on the team.

"John Dowd is a friend and has been a valuable member of our legal team. We will continue our ongoing representation of the President and our cooperation with the Office of Special Counsel," Sekulow said.

Dowd is a veteran defense lawyer perhaps best known for producing a report for Major League Baseball on star player Pete Rose's gambling habits. Dowd also has played a role in some of the defining legal quagmires of the past four decades, including the Iran-Contra affair, the Keating Five, the Enron collapse and a scandal over the firing of U.S. attorneys.

As the investigation progressed, Dowd has cited the cooperation of the White House and Trump campaign with Mueller's investigation, calling it "the most transparent response in history."

His work on behalf of Trump has previously raised eyebrows.

In December, he took ownership of a tweet from Trump that said former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn was dismissed months earlier for having lied to the FBI. The tweet appeared to confirm for the first time that the White House knew at the time of Flynn's firing that he had misled the FBI. That was important because fired FBI Director James Comey has alleged that Trump, in a private Oval Office conversation, had encouraged him to end an investigation into Flynn.

Amid media scrutiny of the tweet, Dowd claimed to have written it himself.

Read Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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PopMom says... March 22, 2018 at 11:25 a.m.

When a lawyer leaves a team, you always wonder if the client fired him or if he had to resign for ethical reasons. I've had to quit a couple of times for ethical reasons.

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KnuckleBall says... March 22, 2018 at 11:42 a.m.

Sounds like the man knew it was time to get out while he could..!!!

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TimberTopper says... March 22, 2018 at 1:08 p.m.

I just hope he had received full payment for his time on the job. Otherwise, I'd say he won't draw another penny.

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BOLTAR says... March 22, 2018 at 1:12 p.m.

When Trump added a Faux News conspiracy theorist to the legal team, sued a porn star, and attacked Mueller by name, this lead attorney knew it was finally time to take his remaining reputation and abandon a losing cause.

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skeptic1 says... March 22, 2018 at 1:53 p.m.

And the article glossed over this...""Over the weekend, Dowd issued a statement calling for an end to special counsel's investigation. The White House and later Dowd had to clarify the statement, saying the president's legal team wasn't calling for Mueller to be fired." BUT FAKE NEWS DON'T LET FACTS LIKE THESE GET IN THE WAY OF YOUR AGENDA....OOPS, WHAT ABOUT THIS? "Dowd confirmed his decision in an email Thursday to The Associated Press, saying: "I love the President and wish him well." Dowd said he made the decision voluntarily, and he denied reports that his departure had to do with Trump ignoring his legal advice." And this is why no one pays attention to the lame-stream media.

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PopMom says... March 22, 2018 at 1:53 p.m.

Another possibility is that Trump told him the truth and then told the attorney that he planned to lie etc. etc. If a client lets you know that he intends to engage in unethical behavior, you have to resign to keep your license. I suspect that his attorney who paid the porn star may be the subject of an ethics complaint. You are not supposed to use your own funds for that kind of thing. Also, any attorney who threatened any of the women may have crossed a line.

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skeptic1 says... March 22, 2018 at 2:05 p.m.

Popmom..your Trump derangement affliction is really dominating your life isn't it? You are in for a very long 8 years, sucks to be you.

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Packman says... March 22, 2018 at 2:15 p.m.

"may herald a shift in strategy..." YA THINK?
.
Joe diGenova indicates a shift to a more scorched Earth approach to lawyering. President Trump seems to have lost his patience with Mueller, the President being fully confident there is ZERO evidence of collusion. Will be interesting to see what diGenova produces for his client.

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BOLTAR says... March 22, 2018 at 3:16 p.m.

I support Trump's legal moves because I enjoy his self immolation.

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PopMom says... March 22, 2018 at 3:47 p.m.

Skeptic,

As long as Mattis is in charge of the military, I think we will be all right so I am not fearful. I am just excited that Trump appears to be going down because he is not good for this country. You are right that Dowd may have been fired and not suddenly developed a case of principles. Trump will be out by next January at the latest. His tweets are becoming even more unhinged.

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