Legal experts have voiced their surprise and concern after an attorney for Donald Trump sought to take the blame for a tweet sent from the president’s personal account that could signal he took part in the obstruction of justice.
The US president said in a tweet on Saturday that he fired Michael Flynn as national security adviser in February “because he lied to the vice-president and the FBI” about his discussions with Russia’s ambassador to the US last December. Flynn pleaded guilty in court on Friday to lying to FBI agents.
This would mean that Trump knew Flynn had committed a serious crime when, according to the former FBI director James Comey, the president asked Comey the next day to halt an FBI investigation into Flynn. On Sunday Trump, who later fired Comey, again denied making such a request.
In an attempt to contain the fallout from the tweet, Trump’s attorney John Dowd took the blame, saying he had composed the post and that it was “sloppy”.
In an interview with Reuters on Sunday he elaborated, saying that he had drafted the tweet and made “a mistake” when he composed it.
“The mistake was I should have put the lying to the FBI in a separate line referencing his plea,” Dowd said. “Instead, I put it together and it made all you guys go crazy. A tweet is a shorthand.”
Dowd said the first time the president knew for a fact that Flynn lied to the FBI was when he was charged.
He said it was the first and last time he would craft a tweet for the president.
“I’ll take responsibility,” he said. “I’m sorry I misled people.”
Talking to NBC he said: “I’m out of the tweeting business. I did not mean to break news.”
However, the suggestion that he wrote the tweet was met with incredulity by Democrats and legal experts.
Many were simply not convinced.
Dowd joined Trump’s legal team in June 2017, as Mueller’s special counsel investigations began heating up.
The White House has yet to comment.