John Dowd is President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, who got presumably unwanted media attention on Saturday after Trump made a Twitter post apparently admitting to obstruction of justice on his part, and source close to the situation claimed that Dowd was actually the author of that tweet.
“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI,” Trump tweeted Saturday. “He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”
Dowd told ABC News on Sunday he was the author of the tweet and said that he wrote it in a “sloppy” manner.
Here’s five things to know:
1. John Dowd Got Pete Rose Kicked out of Baseball
In 1989, baseball legend Pete Rose was banned for life from playing the game (then banned from baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1991), after the discovery that Rose was placing bets on his own team.
John Dowd’s late-1980s investigation into Rose’s betting habits (published as “The Dowd Report“) led to Rose’s lifetime ban. In 2007, when SuperLawyers.com ran an admiring profile piece on “John Dowd’s hall of fame career,” it focused mainly on Dowd’s role representing Ted Williams (and specified that Dowd doesn’t like talking about Rose at all). Dowd said he had a great time hanging out with Williams, but investigating Rose wasn’t nearly as much fun because “Once we got inside his inner circle, we saw that Pete was a much rougher character than anybody knew.”
In July 2017, Rose filed a defamation of character lawsuit against Dowd over statements Dowd made the year before, claiming that Rose had arranged for underage girls to be delivered to baseball training camps so Rose could commit statutory rape with them. In October, Rose’s lawyers dropped one point of contention from Rose’s suit against Dowd; specifically, the contention that Dowd’s accusations had cost Rose more than $300,000 in lost endorsement deals.
2. Dowd Only Joined Trump’s Legal Team in June 2017
Trump hired John Dowd to join his legal team in June 2017, as Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigations began heating up. Dowd brought impressive credentials with him — he was a captain in the Marines, where he served as in the Judge Advocate Division, then left the Marines to become a prosecutor with the Department of Justice, serving as a trial attorney in the Tax Division and heading an Organized Crime Strike Force in the Criminal Division. In his Dowd Report biography, the list of people he has successfully represented includes “a U.S. district judge, a former U.S. Attorney, two U.S. senators, and the governor of Arizona.”
Despite these impressive credentials, Bloomberg Businessweek looked at Trump’s lawyers in August 2017 and concluded “Trump’s Legal Team Is No Match for Mueller’s,” in part because Dowd, for all his ability, brought only his own ability to Trump’s team (as opposed to the far greater resources enjoyed by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, the high-powered law firm where Dowd had recently been a partner. Nicholas Allard, dean of the Brooklyn Law School, told Bloomberg that trying to fend off Mueller without a high-powered legal team would be like “going to a knife fight with a stick of butter in your hand.”
3. Dowd Represented John McCain in the Keating Five Scandal
The collapse of the savings and loan industry was one of the major American financial scandals of the 1980s, which spawned multiple sub-scandals including the story of the so-called “Keating Five”: five sitting U.S. Senators were accused to trying to persuade federal regulators to back away from investigating Charles Keating, whose Lincoln Savings and Loan collapse cost U.S. taxpayers $3.4 billion (in late-1980s dollars). Before Lincoln’s collapse, Charles Keating was a major benefactor for various political campaigns, including the five senators accused to trying to protect him.
Of the Keating Five senators, the only one still in the Senate today is John McCain –who, when the Keating Five investigations first started, hired John Dowd as his attorney. (McCain was eventually cleared of wrongdoing.)
The other four members of the Keating Five–Senators Alan Cranston of California, Dennis DeConcini of Arizona, John Glenn of Ohio and Donald Riegle of Michigan–retired in the 1990s. Charles Keating died in 2014 at the age of 90.
4. After the Charlottesville Nazi Rally, he Said There was ‘Literally no Difference’ Between George Washington and Robert E.Lee
After the now-notorious “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer, President Trump faced bizarre criticism for his obvious reluctance to unequivocally condemn even the literal swastika-waving Nazis who ostensibly were protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.
Dowd, who was the president’s personal lawyer by then, generated controversy of his own when he apparently attempted to defend his boss by forwarding an email to government officials and conservative media journalists saying “You cannot be against General Lee and be for General Washington, there literally is no difference between the two men.” The email also said that Black Lives Matter is led by terrorists.
Dowd did not write the email; its author was Jerome Almon, a conspiracy theorist who, according to the New York Times, runs several websites alleging sundry government conspiracies, including the belief that the FBI has been infiltrated by Islamic terrorists. He also tried (unsuccessfully) to sue the State Department for $900 million over discrimination claims.
Almon told the New York Times that when he sent Dowd the email, he hoped it would ultimately come to the attention of President Trump.
5. Dowd Supposedly Authored Trump’s Tweet to Make Trump Look Better
On Saturday, the day after Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, Donald Trump took to Twitter with a remark widely considered by legal observers to be an admission of obstruction of justice: “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!”
But according to anonymous sources speaking to various media outlets, Dowd was actually the one who wrote that tweet, thinking to help his client. CBS News explained it this way: “Dowd meant to convey that Flynn was fired for lying to Pence and other White House officials about his conversations with Kislyak, and ‘now we know’ that he lied to the FBI, according to these sources. But Dowd bungled the tweet and created confusion around Mr. Trump’s knowledge of events.”
Not everybody bought this story, however. As one attorney noted on Twitter: “We’re supposed to believe John Dowd wrote pled instead of pleaded?”