John Dowd, Trump’s personal lawyer, pretended to fall on his sword to exonerate Trump from a tweet that looked very much like an admission of obstruction of justice.
Trump tweeted on Friday that he fired Michael Flynn “because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.” Trump had previously said that he fired Flynn because he lied to the Vice President, but this was the first time Trump admitted that he knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI.
Lying to the FBI is a crime. If Trump knew that Flynn had committed this crime, everything he did subsequently would look different. With that knowledge, Trump’s efforts to get the Director of the FBI and the heads of Congressional committees to stop investigating Flynn would almost certainly cross the line into obstruction of justice.
So it is not the least surprising that Trump looked for, and found, a way to distance himself from his own disastrous tweet. He trotted out his personal lawyer, John Dowd, to take the blame. According to Axios, Dowd said that he himself, not Trump, drafted the tweet, and that it was “my mistake” that it said that Trump knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI.
But Dowd’s story doesn’t hold up. In fact, it’s ludicrous on its face.
According to Dowd, when the Acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, informed White House Counsel Donald McGahn that Flynn might be compromised because he had lied to Vice President Pence about discussing sanctions with the Russian Ambassador, she didn’t say that Flynn had also “lied” to the FBI, or that he was under investigation for that crime.
Instead, according to Dowd, Yates told McGahn only that Flynn had “given the [FBI] agents the same story he gave the Vice President.”
If ever there was a distinction without a difference, this is it.
Here’s the story Dowd is trying to peddle: Trump knew that Flynn lied to Pence. Trump also knew that Flynn told the FBI “the same story” he told Pence. But Trump didn’t know that Flynn lied to the FBI because Sally Yates didn’t use the word “lie.”
No wonder people hate lawyers.
Worse, the press is reporting this straight. Rather than calling out Dowd on his ridiculous story, it’s treating Dowd’s story as a stunning exoneration of Trump.
And it is doing so because it has been cowed by Trump. Whenever it gets a chance to report something that might cut a bit in Trump’s favor, it does so as loudly as possible in order to prove that it isn’t biased or “fake news.”
But calling a piece of crap a piece of crap isn’t fake news. It’s reporting.
And we need more of it.
Follow Philip on Twitter at @PhilipRotner. Philip is an engaged citizen and a columnist who has spent over 40 years practicing law. His views are his own and do not reflect the views of any organization with which he has been associated.