News | World: Trump's ex-lawyer is said to have proposed diverting funds to Manafort and Gates

World: Trump's ex-lawyer is said to have proposed diverting funds to Manafort and Gates

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The lawyer, John M. Dowd, talked with others close to the case in the months before he left the legal team in March about the possibility of directing the money toward Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, and Rick Gates, the campaign’s deputy chairman.

Both men have pleaded guilty to charges brought by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and Manafort was also convicted at a trial last month on monetary fraud charges in the inquiry.

Dowd told associates of Trump in a Feb. 22 email that the men needed money and that he intended to donate $25,000 to Manafort’s defense fund, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported his plan.

Dowd said in an email that he decided not to donate to Manafort after being counseled against it and noted that he had no control over the money in the Patriot Legal Defense Fund, which was set up to cover expenses for aides to Trump who have been subpoenaed or called for questioning in the investigation.

White House officials cautioned Dowd that a move to cover expenses for Manafort and Gates could look like an effort to influence them as they were deciding whether to cooperate with the special counsel, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

Another person briefed on the discussions said that people involved described the possibility of creating two defense funds, one for people inside the White House and one for outside aides. But Gates pleaded guilty in February to charges stemming from the inquiry, and discussions about covering the legal bills fizzled.

The attempt to help foot Manafort’s and Gates’ legal bills is the latest episode from stewardship of Trump’s legal team to come under scrutiny. Dowd also discussed the possibility of pardons with lawyers for Manafort and Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn; told the special counsel that the president would probably provide a false statement if he were to be interviewed by prosecutors; and did not properly document his legal work for Trump, forcing the next iteration of the president’s legal team to devote months to redoing some of the same work.

Dowd also failed to prepare or debrief lawyers for at least 10 key witnesses who were interviewed by Mueller.

Dowd has also resurfaced recently as a starring figure in the new book, “Fear,” by the investigative journalist Bob Woodward. The book describes, in extensive detail, conversations that Dowd had with the president, including about whether Trump would tell Mueller’s team the truth. Dowd concluded the president was a “liar,” according to Woodward.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt © 2018 The New York Times

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