Trump’s Ex-Lawyer Tried to Finesse White House Funds to Pay Legal Fees of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates: Report

Raj Rajaratnam’s attorney John Dowd exits the Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse March 8, 2011 in New York City. It was the first day of Rajaratnam’s insider-trading trial where he is facing allegations of pocketing $45 million by illegally trading on insider stock tips.
Photo: Yana Paskova (Getty Images)

John Dowd, formerly President Donald Trump’s lead lawyer for the special counsel investigation, attempted to funnel money from the White House to help pay the legal fees incurred by Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates.

According to a report in the the Wall Street Journal, Dowd would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids! might’ve gotten away with it had it not been for White House ethics officials who suggested the president stay far away from these matters. The plan, according to the WSJ, was to divert money from the White House defense fund. While the account was set up to aide in the legal fees of those involved with the president, Gates and Manafort’s charges happened before they became attached to Trump’s campaign.


After trying unsuccessfully to use money from the defense fund, Dowd reportedly leaned on Trump allies to help him raise some $25,000 to aide the men. A WSJ source claimed the monetary assistance was an attempt to keep the men from flipping on Trump.

The Root obtained exclusive video of John Dowd explaining his intentions with White House funds.

Dowd told the WSJ that he only wanted to help.

“I care about a lot of people,” Dowd said of Gates and Manafort. “I was offended as a citizen and a lawyer.”

In February, Gates pleaded guilty to “conspiring to defraud the United States regarding the millions of dollars he and Manafort earned while working for a political party in Ukraine. He also pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI ... during an interview in which he was trying to secure a plea deal,” the Washington Post reports.

In August, a federal jury found Manafort guilty on eight felony counts, including “five counts of tax fraud, one count of failure to file a report of foreign bank and financial accounts and two counts of bank fraud,” according to NBC News. A judge declared a mistrial on the other 10 charges he faced after the jury couldn’t agree on a verdict on those charges. In September, Manafort pleaded guilty “to one count of conspiracy against the US and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice due to attempts to tamper with witnesses,” CNN reports.


Manafort and Gates are reportedly working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller during his investigation into Russia collusion during the 2016 presidential election.

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Stephen A. Crockett Jr.

Senior Editor @ The Root, boxes outside my weight class, when they go low, you go lower.