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John Dowd quit Trump's Russia probe team today.
Reuters/Brendan McDermid
John Dowd quit Trump’s Russia probe team today.
DOWD OUT

Watch out, Mueller—Trump just fired the main peacemaker between himself and the Russia probe

By Max de Haldevang

The departure of John Dowd, Donald Trump’s lead lawyer in the Russia probe, seems to confirm a shift that started over the weekend: The US president is going to keep attacking special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Dowd was hired last summer and has backed two key strategies:

  • Cooperating with Mueller’s investigation…
  • …but keeping Trump and his tendency to extemporize out of an FBI interview.

Dowd reportedly resigned because he doesn’t feel Trump is listening to his advice any more.

As Mueller seems to circle in on Trump’s own actions during the 2016 campaign and on his business dealings (paywall), it seems increasingly unlikely that anyone will restrain the president from raining blows on the special counsel, in Dowd’s absence. Trump targeted Mueller by name in a tweetstorm this weekend and continued yesterday morning (March 21).

Upheaval among Trump’s counsel does not necessarily mean the president is preparing for the radical act of sacking Mueller, however. Such a move would be politically risky—even presidential allies like senator Lindsey Graham and representative Trey Gowdy have warned Trump against it.

Dowd’s resignation could also boost chances of Trump coming face-to-face with Mueller’s team for an interview. Yesterday the special counsel’s office reportedly gave the White House details on the four areas they want to learn more about:

  • Trump’s role in crafting a false statement about his son’s 2016 meeting with Russian representatives in Trump Tower.
  • The Trump Tower meeting in general.
  • Former FBI director James Comey’s firing.
  • Former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s firing.

Dowd had been keen to avoid Trump sitting down with investigators, for fear of his habit of telling falsehoods, but Trump is reportedly raring to face Mueller head-on.