John Dowd, President Donald Trump’s lead lawyer in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation has resigned amid a shake-up of the president’s team.
He had served as the primary negotiator and legal strategist for the Trump defence.
His departure comes as Trump intensified his attacks on Mueller and just days after the Trump legal team added a new lawyer, former U.S. attorney Joseph diGenova.
The latter had alleged on television that FBI officials were involved in a “brazen plot” to exonerate Hillary Clinton in the email investigation and to “frame” Trump for non-existent crimes.
Dowd confirmed his decision in an email to Associated Press Thursday saying, “I love the President and wish him well.”
He said he made the decision voluntarily and he denied reports that his departure had to do with Trump ignoring his legal advice.
Trump’s attorneys, including Dowd, have been negotiating with Robert Mueller’s investigations over the scope and terms of an interview of the president.
Trump has told reporters that he was eager to speak with Mueller, but Dowd has been far more apprehensive, and the lawyers have not publicly committed to making the president available for questioning.
Dowd’s exit nearly a year into Mueller’s investigation threatens to undo the cooperation between prosecutors and Trump’s lawyers and may herald a stark shift in strategy as the probe reaches closer into the White House and the president’s inner circle.
Over the weekend, Dowd issued a statement calling for an end to special counsel’s investigation. The White House and later Dowd had to clarify the statement, saying the president’s legal team wasn’t calling for Mueller to be fired.
But Trump has upped his public attacks on Mueller.
In a series of tweets since last week, the president has said that the probe never should have started, that it was based on “fraudulent activities,” that it was a “WITCH HUNT” and that it is being led by “13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said earlier this week the tweets were a reflection of Trump’s frustration with the process of the investigation. She said the White House did not think firing Mueller would be “the most productive step forward.”