John Dowd resigned as Donald Trump’s lead lawyer against special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe as the president’s impatience grows over the intensifying inquiry into possible collusion in the 2016 election.
His decision came after Mr Trump decided to add a new high-profile lawyer, Joseph diGenova, to his legal team. A frequent guest on Fox News, Mr diGenova has publicly attacked Mr Mueller’s investigation and the FBI, saying he believes Mr Trump was framed by Justice Department officials on a political vendetta.
Mr DiGenova’s remarks put him at odds with the posture of co-operation and deference Mr Trump’s lawyers have publicly taken toward Mr Mueller, and his hiring could signal a more confrontational approach.
Later Thursday, when Mr Trump was asked by reporters whether he still wants to testify to Mr Mueller, he said, “Yes, I would like to.”
But the president has been impatient for Mr Mueller’s investigation to come to a close, and the loss of Mr Dowd may only drag out the process. Mr Dowd had acted as the team’s chief contact in dealing with Mr Mueller and has spent months carefully negotiating terms of an interview between the special counsel and Mr Trump.
Mr Dowd was deeply versed in the facts of the case, including the tens of thousands of pages of documents that had been handed over to Mr Mueller and the dozens of witnesses Mr Mueller has interviewed.
Mr DiGenova is coming in late to an effort that has been going on since the summer and faces a heavily staffed team of Justice Department investigators on the other side. He also could find himself at odds with Mr Trump’s other lawyers, who have set a tone of co-operation with Mr Mueller. For example, he has suggested that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mr Mueller’s work, to be removed and appointed as a judge.