In Bid to Help Trump, John Dowd Suggests Manafort Raid Could Do Real Damage to the President

This Bloomberg piece suggesting, improbably, Trump’s legal team will some day catch up to match the quality of Robert Mueller’s team, describes Trump’s lawyers — especially John Dowd — coordinating with lawyers for other witnesses in the inquiry, including those of Paul Manafort and Mike Flynn.

For the moment, Trump’s personal lawyers are focused on coordinating with lawyers for the Trump campaign and the Trump Organization, as well as for individuals involved in the investigation such as Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn. Dowd also spends time communicating with Mueller—the two have known each other for years, says the person familiar with Trump’s legal strategy.

It also confirms that Dowd has been chatting regularly with Mueller, though doesn’t reveal — as the USA Today did — that those chats include passing on messages from the President.

“He appreciates what Bob Mueller is doing,” Trump’s chief counsel John Dowd told USA TODAY in an interview Tuesday. “He asked me to share that with him and that’s what I’ve done.”

Trump’s legal team has been in contact with Mueller’s office, and Dowd says he has passed along the president’s messages expressing “appreciation and greetings’’ to the special counsel.

“The president has sent messages back and forth,’’ Dowd said, declining to elaborate further.

All of which is useful background for this Fox News piece, which quotes from a letter Dowd sent to a WSJ reporter, complaining about the raid on Paul Manafort. Dowd’s chief concern is that Mueller allegedly didn’t exhaust other methods to obtain the materials seized in the raid.

The email reflects Trump’s legal team moving to protect the president, amid speculation that the raid could be part of a broader effort to squeeze Manafort for information on Trump.

Dowd, in his note, questioned the validity of the search warrant itself, calling it an “extraordinary invasion of privacy.” Dowd said Manafort already was looking to cooperate with congressional committees and said the special counsel never requested the materials from Manafort.

“These failures by Special Counsel to exhaust less intrusive methods is a fatal flaw in the warrant process and would call for a Motion to Suppress the fruits of the search,” Dowd wrote, arguing the required “necessity” of the warrant was “misrepresented to the Court which raises a host of issues involving the accuracy of the warrant application and the supporting FBI affidavit.”

Even assuming what Dowd claims is true (though given the reports that FBI seized financial records not known to have been requested by Congress, that’s doubtful), what does it say that Dowd knows so much about this raid and Manafort’s efforts to comply with all requests? What does it say that Fox presents Dowd’s email as “Trump’s legal team moving to protect the president”?

What is it about an investigation into Manafort’s corruption — and, yes, that June 9, 2016 meeting that Manafort attended, about which Trump dictated a response making false claims — that personally damages the President? I mean, sure, it is Fox claiming Dowd’s complaints protect Trump, not Dowd. But the panicked response here seems to hurt Trump, not help him. (And if you haven’t already, read Rayne’s point about Trump’s mid-twitter rant pause.)

But I am interested in this tidbit, claiming that the FBI seized materials Manafort was using to cooperate with Congressional investigators (and his testimony the day before and day of the raid.

Dowd also said agents seized “privileged and confidential materials prepared for Mr. Manafort by his counsel to aid him in his cooperation with the Congressional committees,”

This might explain the raid, as well as reporting from numerous outlets that suggested a connection with Manafort’s testimony to Congress. Manafort had materials that were timely, useful for the day before and day after, but which he might (rightly?) claim attorney-client privilege over were Mueller to subpoena them. Did staffers see something sketchy on July 25 and alert Mueller?

I actually am somewhat interested if this raid was used to get Manafort’s notes used to testify to Congress.

But given John Dowd’s panic in response — and all the reporting that he has consulted with Manafort’s lawyers — I’m really curious whether it is Dowd’s advice that Mueller was most interested in seeing.

Update: Just so it’s here, I wanted to show what happened with Manafort’s testimony on Tuesday, July 25. He had been asked to testify at a hearing that kept getting rescheduled (as much because of Fusion GPS CEO Glenn Simpson’s reluctance to testify as Manafort’s). On Monday, July 24 (“last night” in a July 25 release), Grassley and Feinstein issued a subpoena for Manafort in particular complaining that Manafort wanted to appear before just one committee.

While we were willing to accommodate Mr. Manafort’s request to cooperate with the committee’s investigation without appearing at Wednesday’s hearing, we were unable to reach an agreement for a voluntary transcribed interview with the Judiciary Committee.  Mr. Manafort, through his attorney, said that he would be willing to provide only a single transcribed interview to Congress, which would not be available to the Judiciary Committee members or staff.  While the Judiciary Committee was willing to cooperate on equal terms with any other committee to accommodate Mr. Manafort’s request, ultimately that was not possible. Therefore, yesterday evening, a subpoena was issued to compel Mr. Manafort’s participation in Wednesday’s hearing. As with other witnesses, we may be willing to excuse him from Wednesday’s hearing if he would be willing to agree to production of documents and a transcribed interview, with the understanding that the interview would not constitute a waiver of his rights or prejudice the committee’s right to compel his testimony in the future.

Later on Tuesday, Grassley and Feinstein announced that Manafort would cooperate, and started turning over documents.

Faced with issuance of a subpoena, we are happy that Mr. Manafort has started producing documents to the Committee and we have agreed to continue negotiating over a transcribed interview. It’s important that he and other witnesses continue to work with this committee as it fulfills its oversight responsibility. Our investigation is still in its early stages, and we will continue to seek information from witnesses as necessary. As we’ve said before, we intend to get the answers that we need, one way or the other. Cooperation from witnesses is always the preferred route, but this agreement does not prejudice the committee’s right to compel his testimony in the future.

This is the reluctant, last minute “cooperation” that Dowd is now pointing to as basis for his claim that Mueller could have gotten Manafort’s cooperation via other means.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

27 replies
  1. Rugger9 says:

    However, Dowd did also tip his hand by his questioning the validity of the warrant which tells me that he will try to get all of the goodies found by the Feebs in this raid tossed out. For what it is worth, there is still enough already in the record to hang Manafort (i.e. the disclosure forms and the Ukrainian account books), but the suppression would go a long way toward protecting Trump and his minions (Hi, JeffBo and Jared) who would most certainly have been mentioned in the notes. Dowd would question the warrant just on advocacy grounds (he’s gotta try to help his client) so perhaps I’m reading too much into it.

    I did toss it out there yesterday that this might have been a preemptive attempt to legally bar evidence run by JeffBo (these characters would do it), but I also recall that SCOTUS has also been more permissive on defects when exigent circumstances are claimed. It might be worth a note from the lawyers about the current state of the 4th Amendment search requirements, what would Dowd have to prove to get this evidence suppressed? We know that it was a warranted search, heavy handed for some reason not yet clear, and was scary enough to the “administration” that even Faux News is saying there is a problem:

    http://crooksandliars.com/2017/08/foxs-judge-napolitano-manafort-raid-it

    Is Dowd’s communication on behalf of his client to other clients’ lawyers somehow privileged (even under the “executive privilege” standard? I wouldn’t normally think so, but watching JeffBo tap dance around that very point in his hearings regarding Comey’s dismissal makes me wonder if that play wouldn’t be tried as well. That concept might make the Manafort counsel’s notes subject to executive privilege protection in the view of Caesar Disgustus and his minions. Otherwise, I would think Manafort’s lawyer discussing his client’s situation with another party pierces the attorney-client privilege wall. This is where a real lawyer should tap in to help us make sense of this.

    • tryggth says:

      Would be interesting to see how such a challenge would hold up if the raid was predicated on evidence of non-compliance of a prior SC subpoena.

    • Kent says:

      The Attorney-NonClient privilege argument seems about as slippery as Sessions’ preemptive executive privilege argument during testimony.  I trust Mueller would not be as quiescent as committee Democrats if Dowd tries it in court.

    • bmaz says:

      Well, Dowd isn’t going to get diddly squat “tossed out” from this search warrant execution, he and his client have no standing to even try. Only Manafort does.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Challenging the search warrant’s validity and challenging the range of items taken pursuant to it as being outside its valid scope – and, therefore excludable – would be routine items on any defense lawyer’s to do list.

    A defense lawyer attempting dialogue with the prosecutor would also be routine.  It’s as unlikely to reduce his client’s risk in this case as it is that Trump would dial back and try diplomacy – with an unstaffed State Dept no less – when he can instead bloviate about the size of his weapon.

  3. pdaly says:

    Love the 9 minutes of Trump twitter silence. Hoping Rayne is onto something.

    Aside from current no knock search warrant served on Manafort’s home, I’m wondering why a “voluntary transcribed interview” was a no-go for Manafort in the lead up to this raid.
    Does voluntary mean the person is not under oath? Or do lies to Congress, even in voluntary, transcribed interviews,  put one in legal jeopardy?

    Is it a question of friendly (Senate Intelligence Committee) and unfriendly (Senate Judiciary) venue?
    Manafort testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
    Were their questions pre-submitted and  Manafort’s answers prepared ahead of time with areas of legal jeopardy assiduously avoided?
    Are the Senate Judiciary Committee’s questions pre-submitted and too probing? or kept close to the chest until interview day and therefore too risky to agree to on Manafort’s part?

  4. Rugger9 says:

    As bmaz has noted correctly, Dowd is Trump’s lawyer, not Manafort’s. So while I’m sure he can file amicus briefs all day, Trump (and his minions) still have no standing in this raid, unless… they cite executive privilege in a “Hail Mary” play. Even that falls apart because IIRC Manafort has never been part of the executive branch in any capacity, he was launched out of the campaign and never brought back in.

    If Caesar Disgustus pardons Manafort now, he sings. He may already be singing or will be shortly. The National Enquirer hatchet job should make it clear to him that C.D. thinks Paulie M is expendable. OTOH, since Paulie M is (allegedly) tied in very closely with the Russians on many (allegedly) dirty deals, perhaps Putin will solve Caesar’s problem for him (i.e. kompromat or exile).

  5. Rugger9 says:

    Heck, even Pat Robertson has joined the RWNJ chorus (see Crooks and Liars) complaining about the raid.  Maybe he has another book deal.

    However, Caesar still has time to take potshots at McConnell for not getting the repeal done, and since McConnell has been a reliable ally in the Senate I do not see this twitter fight as productive.

    I also saw the poll where 52% of the GOP voters would delay the 2020 election if Caesar Disgustus wanted it.  We have held elections during wars even on our own soil, and these snowflakes can’t let the voter fraud myth go. Suppression (see the IN case on TPM), gerrymandering and vote flipping are all GOP tactics that have given them wins.  They cheat.

  6. SpaceLifeForm says:

    “I’m really curious whether it is Dowd’s advice that Mueller was most interested in seeing.”

    Advice to whom?

    He knows RICO.

  7. SpaceLifeForm says:

    OT: The alleged DNC hack that wasn’t a hack.
    Even Binney agrees. This is what I have always said. It was local dump to USB key. Points to Awan.

    https://www.thenation.com/article/a-new-report-raises-big-questions-about-last-years-dnc-hack/

    Time stamps in the metadata provide further evidence of what happened on July 5. The stamps recording the download indicate that it occurred in the Eastern Daylight Time Zone at approximately 6:45 pm.

    https://consortiumnews.com/2017/07/24/intel-vets-challenge-russia-hack-evidence/

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      The interesting point is that it is believed that two separate DNC leaks occurred. The second to taint the first, and blame Russian hackers.

      • emptywheel says:

        Yeah, I’m sort of forced to write it up. But the conclusions Binney et al draw are not dictated by the evidence.

        • SpaceLifeForm says:

          Nor was the allleged NSA report that Reality Winner allegedly leaked. From the link.

          https://consortiumnews.com/2017/07/24/intel-vets-challenge-russia-hack-evidence/

          NOTE: There has been so much conflation of charges about hacking that we wish to make very clear the primary focus of this Memorandum. We focus specifically on the July 5, 2016 alleged Guccifer 2.0 “hack” of the DNC server. In earlier VIPS memoranda we addressed the lack of any evidence connecting the Guccifer 2.0 alleged hacks and WikiLeaks, and we asked President Obama specifically to disclose any evidence that WikiLeaks received DNC data from the Russians [see here and here].

          [Here are the ‘here and here’ links]

          https://consortiumnews.com/2017/01/17/a-demand-for-russian-hacking-proof/

          https://consortiumnews.com/2016/12/12/us-intel-vets-dispute-russia-hacking-claims/

          [Back to latest link (top)]

          Addressing this point at his last press conference (January 18), he described “the conclusions of the intelligence community” as “not conclusive,” even though the Intelligence Community Assessment of January 6 expressed “high confidence” that Russian intelligence “relayed material it acquired from the DNC … to WikiLeaks.”

          [There are lots of folks that do not want to believe the VIPS report. But that does not mean it is incorrect.

          “not conclusive” is valid.
          “high confidence” is also valid.

          That Russian intelligence “relayed material it acquired from the DNC … to WikiLeaks.”

          Must parse carefully.

          Relaying ‘material’ Russian IC ‘acquired’ does *NOT* mean that Russian IC actually carried out a hack remotely via the internet.

          An insider (example Awan) could have dumped to USB key, and then via another person, it got to Russian IC, and then it was sent to WL (also no proof).

          The point is, just because things are “not conclusive’ one should not automatically jump to the contrapositive, which will be equally “not conclusive”.

          “High confidence” is not evidence, and ‘not conclusive’ does not imply lack of evidence either.

      • greengiant says:

        The largest amount of evidence that Trump/oligarch/Wikileaks actors hacked the DNC is provided by the Trump/oligarch/Wikileaks narratives denying their involvement.  That doubles for the Awan family.   Here is just a quick link.

        http://nymag.com/selectall/2017/08/the-nation-article-about-the-dnc-hack-is-incoherent.html

        Anyone on this propaganda bandwagon or conversely shading it,  your name and number is being taken down somewhere.  I am not sure which is worse.  Trump used the hacks/leaks/phishes and probably some that have not totally surfaced as well.  Trump is part of the swamp,  the sooner drained the better.

  8. Charles says:

    I actually am somewhat interested if this raid was used to get Manafort’s notes used to testify to Congress.

    This is getting in pretty deep to Fifth Amendment territory.  As of 1993, there wasn’t unanimity on how much protection papers got. I don’t know how much subsequent intrusion into Boyd has occurred, but–given the membership of the Supreme Court– I would think Mueller would be cautious about testing those limits.

    However, an obstruction of justice charge based on failure to produce documents could be brought without revealing the full contents of the documents. If there’s a connection to the Senate hearing, that’s what I would expect to see. And I don’t see any Fifth Amendment protection to saying, “The Senate asked for correspondence from Manafort to Russians. This letter is from Manafort to Veselniskaya. It was not produced for the Senate. Manafort is obstructing justice.”

  9. orionATL says:

    from wapo columnist jennifer rubin:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2017/08/10/trump-panicking-over-the-manafort-raid-he-should-be/

    i am sympathetic to the notion that trump uses tweets as calculated distractions to draw media attention away from coverage of events unfavorable to himself and toward events politically favorable to himself.

    i also believe that trump tweets a lot when he is anxious because he is feeling both threatened and powerless to deal directly with that threat(s).

    trumps achilles heal is that he has not recruited and developed a cadre of truely loyal and well-disciplined whitehouse staff that he can trust; his people management skills are incompetent/attrocious.

  10. SpaceLifeForm says:

    OT: Leakers everywhere

    http://money.cnn.com/2017/08/10/technology/business/google-meeting-questions/index.html

    Earlier in the day, questions began to be posted to Google’s internal message boards that were to be included in today’s planned meeting.

    “Can we get an update on progress toward identifying leakers?” one employee posted, saying multiple Googlers had their team pages leaked to alt-right sites, resulting in a death threat in one instance.

  11. Desider says:

    @SpaceLifeForm, VIPS are a bunch of self-promoting clowns, and the comments for the article show how silly and wrong their calculations are. Hell, *I* had software at the time that would blow away their claimed bottleneck (hint: parallel transfers optimize channel use) and only a dumb (l)user would be stuck with standard Windows performance, not a serious hacker. (Did they have NSA tools at that point?)

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Timestamps. They disagree with a sophiisticated RAT tool, and the bandwidth estimates also disagree. Even if you assume really good net (fibre/cable), the remote hacker would have to be really close even with a multi-channel RAT. And with at least a few routers minimum involved, you are probably looking at 8-12 mBps (Bytes/sec) max.
      And that would be typical for a user download, but a remote hacker will not get that rate for exfiltration purposes. Exfiltration speed is what the user upload speed would typically be, and ISPs rarely give the end user the same upload bandwidth as download bandwidth.
      It is intentionally limited. Maybe DNC has fibre net, and great upload bandwidth, but the computer involved probably only had a 100mps NIC with cat5 eth to their local router.

      Bottom line: The numbers point to USB.

      Note: This is not to imply that Russia was not involved. Just that it was not a remote hack.

      • greengiant says:

        And what if you exfiltrated to one computer via the means of your choice and then you did a dump via USB?   And who is forMike anyway? Trust no one. Binney and Drake whistleblowed on what,  a billion dollar money laundering operation?  Call it 10 billion.  Meanwhile US debt has jacked up another 10 trillion, the oligarchs have offshored at least 10 trillion, and the forever wars continue. The TLAs have participated and jammed up whistleblowers.  Why expect help from those waiting for their pension checks or consulting jobs?

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