John Dowd, a personal attorney of Donald Trump, stepped down today from his role as head of the legal team representing the president in the special counsel’s investigation of possible collusion with Russia. The news came just as the House Intelligence Committee was set to vote on whether to release a report from Republicans in the group that recommends ending the committee’s investigation into the same subject. If, as House Republicans insist, there’s nothing to see there, why would Dowd resign just before evidence backing up that insistence was about to be made public?
As is common with departures connected to President Trump, there are conflicting stories circulating as to the circumstances that led to it. The New York Times said a source told the paper that “Mr. Dowd, who took over the president’s legal team last summer, had considered leaving several times in recent months and ultimately concluded that Mr. Trump was increasingly ignoring his advice.” The biggest shock here is learning that someone close to Donald Trump thought it was possible for him consistently to take advice. Dowd was especially irritated that Trump has repeatedly said he’d be happy to sit down with special counsel Robert Mueller and his team. Given that Trump first denied firing FBI director James Comey because of the Russia investigation and then said that was exactly the reason, you can understand the lawyer’s frustration.
But the Washington Post has a different narrative: “Dowd’s departure was a largely mutual decision made after the president lost confidence in his ability to handle special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and Dowd became frustrated with Trump’s recent efforts to bring on new attorneys.”
Don’t expect Dowd to tell all and confirm either one of these stories. When the Post asked Dowd for comment, he emailed the paper, “I love the President and wish him well.” And, of course, this is unlikely to be the only shakeup in the investigation that’s haunted Donald Trump almost since the beginning of his presidency. The Times mentioned the official White House lawyer for the investigation, Ty Cobb, reporting that “the president has discussed with close associates in recent days whether to fire Mr. Cobb, while reassuring Mr. Cobb that he had no plans to do so.” It sounds a lot like what happened to Rex Tillerson—except Trump and his team claimed publicly that the president had no plans to fire his secretary of state, not long before he did ignominiously fire him.