On Saturday, the president sent out a stunning tweet that seemed to be an explicit admission of guilt, albeit an accidental one.
Trump tweeted out that he had to fire disgraced National Security Advisor Michael Flynn because Flynn lied to the Vice President and the FBI. The tweet came on the tail of the bombshell Friday announcement that special counsel Mueller has brought charges against Flynn, who has entered a guilty plea for lying to the FBI.
Lying to the FBI is a federal crime, so if Trump knew that Flynn had done it and said nothing before proceeding to ask then-FBI Director James Comey to abandon the investigation into Flynn, Trump would be guilty of obstructing justice. It would mean he knew Flynn had committed a crime and tried to use the power of the Oval Office to make sure it went undiscovered.
I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 2, 2017
The tweet caused a firestorm almost immediately, and the administration quickly trotted out an absurd defense of the president, claiming that he didn’t send the tweet out himself and that rather his lawyer John Dowd drafted it and gave it to Trump’s social media director.
The fact that the administration wants us to believe that an experienced lawyer like Dowd would use the word “pled” instead of the correct legal term “pleaded” should raise everyone’s suspicion.
“I’m out of the tweeting business. I did not mean to break news,” Dowd told Axios.
The idea is ludicrous at face value. Why would the president’s lawyer have access to his Twitter account? Why would a veteran lawyer like Dowd write a tweet that clearly indicates a crime on the part of the president? The obvious answer is that he wouldn’t and that Trump himself ignorantly wrote the tweet and sent it out without realizing the grave implications of the message.
Now, Richard Painter, an ethics lawyer for the George W. Bush White House, has taken to Twitter to slam Dowd for his complicity in Trump’s obfuscations. Painter points out that if Dowd did indeed send the controversial tweet, it would mean he incriminated his client in a crime, which in turn would be grounds for disbarment.
A lawyer who writes a Tweet like that incriminating a client should be disbarred. He can tell Mueller he wrote it. https://t.co/FSE51u3fqw
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) December 3, 2017
In other words, it seems highly unlikely that Dowd wrote the tweet and the most plausible explanation is that he is being scapegoated to protect President Trump. If Dowd did write it, it would constitute a stunning degree of incompetence on his part and make him unfit to practice law going forward.
The entire affair also raises the question of who has access to the president’s twitter. Trump has (unfortunately) turned the social media account into a major platform for American policy, both foreign and domestic. The American people have a right to know if there are people in the administration allowed to impersonate President Trump on Twitter. It’s a dangerous prospect and one that must be addressed immediately.