President Trump's personal lawyer is claiming that he, not Trump, was the author of a legally dubious tweet sent from Trump's account Saturday. "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies." That suggests Trump knew Flynn was guilty of a crime when he allegedly asked former FBI Director James Comey to halt his investigation of the former national security adviser the day after his firing, meaning the request could have been obstruction of justice. The lawyer, John Dowd, tells NBC News that the "sloppy" tweet was his work. He says he drafted it and sent it to White House social media director Dan Scavino. He says it was done over the phone, so he can't provide any emails to back up his story. "I'm out of the tweeting business," Dowd says. "I did not mean to break news." In other developments:
- A mistake. Dowd says Trump didn't know Flynn had lied to the FBI until Flynn's guilty plea and it was a mistake to suggest otherwise."The mistake was I should have put the lying to the FBI in a separate line referencing his plea," Dowd tells Reuters. "Instead, I put it together and it made all you guys go crazy. A tweet is a shorthand." He says he had never written a Trump tweet before, and he is "sorry he misled people."
- Sally Yates. Dowd tells NBC that the tweet referred to statements made by then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates when she visited the White House in late January. He says Yates told White House Counsel Don McGahn that Flynn had given FBI agents and Vice President Mike Pence the same story. "All the president knew was that the department was not accusing him of lying," he says.
- "More Fake News." Trump referenced the uproar in one of many tweets over the weekend about the FBI and the Russia probe. I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn," he tweeted. "Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!"
- It "doesn't make sense." Analysts say they find it hard to believe that Dowd, a former Justice Department attorney, wouldn't have realized the implications of the tweet, the Guardian reports. It "doesn't make sense," tweeted lawyer Brandi Jones. Others wondered whether a lawyer with Dowd's decades of experience would really have written "pled" instead of "pleaded."
- Making things worse? Former federal prosecutor Barak Cohen tells the Washington Post that the tweet appears to bolster any possible obstruction of justice case, whether Trump wrote it or not. "If President Trump sends it, then Trump has adopted it. It’s his statement," Cohen says. "The bottom line is the tweet is still bad for Trump—it makes things worse for him." Insiders tell the Post that the tweet "caused enormous consternation in the White House" when officials realized it could help the Mueller investigation build a case.
(On Sunday, Trump said the FBI's reputation is "in tatters."