President Donald Trump's lawyer called on the Justice Department to immediately shut down the special counsel probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, in the wake of the firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
Attorney John Dowd said in a statement that the investigation, now led by special counsel Robert Mueller, was fatally flawed early on and "corrupted" by political bias. He called on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees that probe, to shut it down.
"I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe's boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier," Dowd said in an emailed statement.
Dowd told The Washington Post on Saturday he was speaking for himself and not on Trump's behalf. Earlier Saturday, Dowd told the Daily Beast that he was speaking on behalf of the president and in his capacity as the president's attorney. (After the Daily Beast published its story, Dowd emailed the publication and said he was not speaking on the president's behalf.)
In a Saturday afternoon tweet, Trump reiterated his claim that there was "no collusion" between his campaign and Russians, and bemoaned what he described as "leaking, lying and corruption" in federal law enforcement agencies. But he stopped short of echoing Dowd's call for an end to the Mueller probe.
Trump tweeted: "As the House Intelligence Committee has concluded, there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump Campaign. As many are now finding out, however, there was tremendous leaking, lying and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI, Justice & State. #DrainTheSwamp."
Trump was referring to the Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee's announcement this past week that they were concluding their investigation of Russian interference in the election, though a separate investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee continues, as does Mueller's probe.
Sessions late Friday night fired McCabe, a little more than 24 hours before McCabe was set to retire - a move that McCabe alleged was an attempt to "slander" him and undermine the ongoing special counsel investigation into the Trump campaign.
Sessions announced the decision in a statement just before 10 p.m., noting that both the Justice Department inspector general and the FBI office that handles discipline had found "that Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor - including under oath - on multiple occasions."
An inspector general raised questions about McCabe's discussions with reporters about a case related to Hillary Clinton.
If Dowd's statement reflected Trump's legal strategy, it would represent a significant shift in the president's approach to the Mueller investigation.
Trump's lawyers and spokesmen have long pledged that he and his White House staff would cooperate fully with Mueller's probe. The White House has responded to requests for documents, while senior officials have sat for hours of interviews with the special counsel's investigators.
Asked Thursday whether the special counsel's subpoena of documents from the Trump Organization regarding its dealings with Russia crossed a red line in the view of the president, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it did not.
"As we've maintained all along, and as the president has said numerous times, there was no collusion between the campaign and Russia," Sanders told reporters. She added, "We're going to continue to fully cooperate out of respect for the special counsel."
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement Saturday that there will be "severe consequences" for both Democrats and Republicans if Trump and his legal team take steps to interfere with or end Mueller's probe.
"Mr. Dowd's comments are yet another indication that the first instinct of the president and his legal team is not to cooperate with Special Counsel Mueller, but to undermine him at every turn," Schumer said.
McCabe's firing touched off a firestorm late Friday. The now-former No. 2 at the FBI, who is a witness in the Russia case, shot back immediately.
"This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally," McCabe said. "It is part of this Administration's ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation, which continue to this day. Their persistence in this campaign only highlights the importance of the Special Counsel's work."
His firing - which was recommended by the FBI office that handles discipline - stems from a Justice Department inspector general investigation that found McCabe authorized the disclosure of sensitive information to the media about a Clinton-related case, then misled investigators about his actions in the matter, people familiar with the matter have said. He stepped down earlier this year from the deputy director role after FBI Director Christopher Wray was briefed on the inspector general's findings, though he technically was still an employee.
Trump tweeted early Saturday morning, "Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI - A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!"
When asked by The Post if he believed the Russia case was flawed because of new findings about McCabe or larger issues with the early FBI handling of the investigation, Dowd declined to elaborate.
"Just end it on the merits in light of recent revelations," he said. "My statement is clear."