The Wall Street Journal published a story on Friday that raises new questions about the actions of Donald J. Trump and his team, including those of his lawyer. According to the story, John Dowd, who at the time headed Trump’s criminal defense team, “sought to help pay legal fees for Paul Manafort and Richard Gates, initially trying to divert money from the White House legal defense fund and later soliciting donors and pledging $25,000 of his own.”
The clear visual of this effort is that Dowd, on behalf of his client, was trying to silence Manafort and Gates. According to the article, Dowd’s “idea was rebuffed by ethics advisers in the White House.” Gates and Manafort would not have been eligible for the funds, because their alleged crimes pre-dated the Trump campaign. Dowd has defended his intentions, arguing that he was “offended as a citizen and a lawyer” over the way that Manafort was being treated by the investigation.
That is Dowd’s and the White House’s defense, and the Wall Street Journal makes clear that no payments were made despite the plans. But like everything this White House touches, the plans leave open many questions. For example, what communications were being made with Gates or Manafort and their lawyers? Gates pleaded guilty the day after the story says Dowd’s plans were shut down.
We know Paul Manafort is now cooperating. The Mueller team will ask Manafort what communications about this planned hush scheme took place between Dowd, other Trump lawyers, or White House personnel. Depending on what the reality of these plans were, Mueller may have to open his Trump indictment document and add some more paragraphs. Like a greasy spoon diner, this cup of corruption and obstruction appears to be “bottomless.”