Allegra Kirkland

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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President Donald Trump’s outside legal team is acknowledging that it pressed pause on stated plans to file a complaint against former FBI director James Comey for allegedly sharing the content of “privileged conversations” with the press.

“The filings will go forward at the appropriate time in the future,” a person with knowledge of the legal team’s plans told TPM on Wednesday. “For now, they will be postponed to allow the Special Counsel to do his work.”

This effort to smooth over relations with Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russian officials, was first reported by Bloomberg.

It follows weeks of backlash from Trump and his allies against both Mueller and Comey, who testified before Congress that he kept detailed memos of private conversations he had with the President that he found troubling. Comey asked a friend to share descriptions of those memos with the media out of concern Trump would misrepresent their interactions—a decision that Trump and his private attorney, Mark Kasowitz, said proved Comey was a “leaker.”

The day after Comey’s testimony, Trump’s team publicized plans to file a complaint with the Justice Department about his actions. Legal observers said it was unlikely that Comey sharing unclassified information with the media as a private citizen qualified as leaking.

Trump and his defenders also blasted Mueller for his friendship with Comey, and the fact that several of the high-powered attorneys he brought onto his special counsel team had donated to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

For the moment, per the individual close to Trump’s legal team, the President is taking a step back. As TPM previously reported, his outside lawyers kicked the bucket for almost two weeks after initially announcing that they intended to lodge a complaint against Comey, until conceding Wednesday that it actually would not be filed any time in the near future.

This month, Trump’s outside legal team has expanded to include Jay Sekulow, an attorney who made his name fighting for conservative Christian causes; John Dowd, a former prosecutor well-known in Washington, D.C. legal circles; and Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the group who has represented big names like former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove.

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Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s lavishly-compensated work for a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party came into sharper focus when he retroactively filed with the U.S. Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) late Tuesday.

Manafort’s firm, DMP International LLC, earned more than $17 million over just two years from the now-defunct Party of Regions, according to his filings, which are a belated acknowledgement that the work he was doing primarily benefited a foreign power. Deliberate failure to register under FARA can result in a felony charge and severe financial penalties, but such prosecutions are rare.

Manafort’s spokesman, Jason Maloni, said that the former campaign chairman began the registration process shortly after he left the Trump campaign in August amid mounting questions about the millions of dollars he earned doing political work in Ukraine.

“He started this process in concert with FARA’s unit in September, before the outcome of the election and well before any formal investigation of election interference began,” Maloni said in a statement. “Paul’s primary focus was always directed at domestic Ukrainian political campaign work, and that is reflected in today’s filing.”

The FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election actually began in July 2016, as fired bureau director James Comey testified before Congress. Manafort is one of several Trump associates under scrutiny in the probe, now helmed by special counsel Robert Mueller, for his business dealings and ties to Russian operatives. Federal investigators first began looking into Manafort’s political activity in Ukraine in 2014, and recently their inquiry reportedly expanded to look into real estate investments Manafort made in partnership with his son-in-law, Jeffrey Yohai.

Manafort’s 87-page FARA filing shows that he and Rick Gates, an associate in his firm who also worked on the Trump campaign, conducted polling and developed a party platform and political agenda for the Party of Regions and then-President Viktor Yanukovych. Between 2012-2014, their firm spent about $4 million of the party’s money on polling and consulting services in both the United States and Ukraine, and another $2 million on travel and living expenses.

Their firm also advised Ukrainian officials on dealing with their U.S. counterparts, and held at least one meeting with an American politician: Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

The filing shows that Manafort held a March 2013 meeting with Rohrabacher, who has such an ardently pro-Russia reputation that he’s been dubbed “Putin’s favorite congressman,” and then donated $1,000 to the lawmaker just three days later.

Manafort’s work in Ukraine predated the time period covered by his retroactive FARA filing. Shortly before his departure from the Trump campaign, the New York Times reported that secret ledgers maintained by the Party of Regions showed Manafort was earmarked to receive $12.7 million in cash payments between 2007 and 2012.

Ukrainian prosecutors said this week that they’d found no proof Manafort had signed off to actually receive these off-the-books payments, which were first discovered by last year by anti-corruption investigators in that country, Bloomberg reported.

Both Manafort and Gates have denied there was anything untoward about their work in Ukraine, with Gates recently telling the Times that “everything was done legally and with the approval of our lawyers.”

Gates is one of the most recent Trump campaign associates to be pulled into the Russia mess. His name reportedly was included in a memo a Trump transition team lawyer circulated to former campaign officials requesting the preservation of all documents related to Russia and Ukraine, as well as travel records and all documents connected to a handful of former campaign staffers.

Manafort and Gates are the second and third prominent members of Trump’s campaign to retroactively register as foreign agents. Ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn registered under FARA shortly after leaving the White House for lobbying work his consulting firm did to benefit the government of Turkey during the 2016 election.

Read Manafort’s full filing below:

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One of the White House advisers closest to President Donald Trump is beefing up his legal representation for the federal investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election: Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

In addition to his personal attorney, Jamie Gorelick, Kushner has retained veteran criminal defense lawyer Abbe Lowell to help handle his response to special counsel Robert Mueller’s sprawling probe, according to reports that surfaced Monday. Lowell has been involved in some of the biggest scandals to hit D.C. in recent years, representing disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff and shepherding Democratic vice-presidential nominee John Edwards through a campaign finance case that was ultimately dropped by the Justice Department.

Kushner “engaged Abbe Lowell to advise him and then decided to add Mr. Lowell to the team representing him in the various inquiries into the Russia matter,” Gorelick confirmed to Politico.

He is one of at least 10 White House officials and former aides who have retained attorneys or plan to retain attorneys to field the federal investigation, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Along with reports that Trump himself is under investigation for possibly attempting to obstruct the probe, investigators’ interest in Kushner shows how far the Russia probe has reached into the President’s inner circle.

While current and former U.S. officials with knowledge of the investigation have told various news outlets that Kushner is not a target and his lawyers say he is cooperating fully with Mueller’s office, his meetings with Russian officials and businessmen and his personal finances are all under scrutiny, according to reports in the Washington Post and New York Times.

Here’s what we know about Kushner that has caught federal agents’ attention.

Meetings with Russia’s ambassador and discussion of a secret communications channel

Kushner first came under FBI scrutiny last year as agents began digging into former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s ties to Russian officials, according to Reuters. A current U.S. law enforcement official told the publication that Kushner was one of the American names unmasked in intelligence reports detailing communications between Flynn and Russian officials. This prompted further scrutiny into Kushner’s own dealings with Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S., Sergei Kislyak.

Those dealings included a remarkable December discussion about setting up a secure, secret communications channel between the Trump transition team and Moscow, according to a Washington Post bombshell report. Kushner reportedly proposed establishing this direct line of contact, and communications intercepted by the U.S. showed that Kislyak told his superiors he was surprised by Kushner’s suggestion to use communications equipment in stateside Russian diplomatic facilities to carry it out.

The White House did not dispute reports about this Trump Tower meeting, which Flynn, then the national security adviser-designate, attended. Some members of the administration publicly said they saw no issue with a transition team establishing a secret line of communication with a sitting foreign government, even praising the move.

This was hardly Kushner’s only conversation with Kislyak. Reuters also reported that Kushner had failed to disclose at least three additional contacts with the Russian ambassador, including two phone calls between April and November 2016. All of their communications are now under federal scrutiny, according to that report.

In a statement to Reuters, Gorelick said Kushner did not remember those phone calls.

“Mr Kushner participated in thousands of calls in this time period,” she said. “He has no recollection of the calls as described. We have asked (Reuters) for the dates of such alleged calls so we may look into it and respond, but we have not received such information.”

Meeting with head of a sanctioned Russian bank

Investigators are looking into the backstory of another meeting Kushner held in December, this time with the head of a Russian state-owned bank with deep connections to Russia’s intelligence agency.

Why Kushner met with Sergey Gorkov, CEO of Vnesheconombank, and what they discussed is a line of inquiry for federal investigators, according to the The New York Times. Current and former U.S. officials told the newspaper the conversation may have been part of Kushner’s effort to contact the Kremlin without the Obama administration’s knowledge, and that investigators want to know if they discussed lifting sanctions that Obama’s team imposed on Russian companies, including Vnesheconombank, in retaliation for Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.

The White House has said that Kushner met with Gorkov in his capacity as a transition official, while the bank said Gorkov met with Kushner in his private capacity as head of his family’s real estate company.

Both this meeting with Gorkov and the “backchannel” discussion with Kislyak were initially left off of Kushner’s security clearance application, an omission Gorelick has said was in error and subsequently corrected.

The data operation credited with Trump’s victory

The Trump campaign’s robust data analytics operation, which Kushner oversaw, is currently under federal scrutiny, CNN reported. Investigators want to know if the San Antonio, Texas-based data team wittingly or unwittingly funneled information to Russian operatives. The U.S. intelligence community says Russian hackers strategically targeted certain states and demographics with social media bots and “fake news” sites pushing pro-Trump stories.

CNN reported that Kushner helped the campaign make use of data targeting to reach voters in states like Michigan and Wisconsin, who ultimately ended up securing Trump’s electoral victory.

Kushner’s personal finances and some of his business dealings

Kushner’s business dealings and personal finances are the latest area of inquiry that U.S. officials have divulged are part of Mueller’s probe, the Washington Post reported.

Investigators want to know if Kushner was trying to secure funding for his family real estate company’s flagship Manhattan office building, the troubled 666 Fifth Avenue, when he met with Gorkov in December, U.S. officials told the Post. At the time of the meeting, Kushner Companies was known to be seeking financing for the building, which has lost money since Kushner purchased it for an astonishing $1.8 billion in 2007.

The Post did not name other specific real estate or business dealings tied to Kushner that were under investigation. Gorelick said it was within the special counsel’s purview to look into the Russia-linked business dealings involving any Trump associate.

“It would be standard practice for the Special Counsel to examine financial records to look for anything related to Russia,” Gorelick told the Post. “Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about Russia-related matters. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.”

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A Christian nonprofit run by Jay Sekulow, the most visible member of President Donald Trump’s private legal team, targeted poor and unemployed donors to raise millions of dollars for Sekulow’s family and their businesses, the Guardian reported Tuesday.

Documents obtained by the Guardian show that, in the midst of the Great Recession, Sekulow signed off on contracts that instructed telemarketers for Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism (CASE) to urge retirees on fixed incomes and others who said they could not afford a donation to find it in their hearts to contribute a “sacrificial gift.”

CASE raises tens of millions of dollars every year, primarily through small direct-mail donations. The Guardian reported that money goes directly to Sekulow, his wife—who has made more than $1.2 milion as CASE’s treasurer and secretary—his sons, brother, sister-in-law, and other firms associated with the family, as well as to finance loans and media-production ventures associated with the family.

Sekulow did not respond to the publication’s questions about his charity work, but his spokesman sent over an emailed response about CASE and the American Center for Legal Justice (ACLJ), another charity Sekulow runs.

“The financial arrangements between the ACLJ, Case and all related entities are regularly reviewed by outside independent compensation experts and have been determined to be reasonable,” the statement from spokesman Gene Kapp read. “In addition, each entity has annual independent outside audits performed by certified public accounting firms. Further, the IRS has previously conducted audits of the ACLJ and Case and found them to be in full compliance of all applicable tax laws.”

Experts in non-profit law told the Guardian that the Sekulows’ arrangement could violate a federal law prohibiting nonprofits from paying excessive benefits to their top executives.

Sekulow is a conservative Christian lawyer who has made his name campaigning against abortion rights and same-sex marriage. He was recently dispatched for a puzzling round of cable news interviews in which he first said it was absurd that Trump was under investigation for potential obstruction of justice as part of the federal investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, then insisted moments later that the President was not under investigation at all.

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The FBI has conducted five interviews with Carter Page about his contacts with Russian operatives and his work as an adviser to Donald Trump’s campaign, the Washington Post reported Monday.

Page confirmed the meetings to the Post, and told the newspaper that he denied any wrongdoing during the “extensive discussions” he had with federal agents. The Post reported that there were five separate March meetings, amounting to ten hours of questioning in all.

In an email, Page told TPM that the agents who interviewed him “indicated that their ‘management’ was concerned that I did not believe the conclusions” of the intelligence community’s Jan. 6 report asserting that the Russian government intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump win. Calling that report “fake,” Page added that agents’ questions were “MOSTLY RELATED TO FALSE ALLEGATIONS FROM THE DODGY DOSSIER AND THE CLINTON CAMPAIGN.”

Page has adopted that phrase to refer to a largely unverified dossier compiled by a former British intelligence officer, which was published by BuzzFeed in January, that alleged he and other Trump associates were involved with a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” with the Kremlin.

In an unusual move for someone under FBI scrutiny, Page has not retained a lawyer, and has taken to writing long letters addressed to the congressional committees investigating the Trump team’s potential connections to Russia, quibbling with bits of witnesses’ testimony or about scheduling a date when he can come testify before the committees himself. He told the Post he did not bring a lawyer to his interviews with the FBI because he was not worried about unlawfully misrepresenting any information to agents.

Page advised the Trump team on national security policy for a few short months before he was dropped over his connections to Russia. The oil-and-gas industry expert previously worked in Russia for Merill Lynch, provided information to undercover Russian spies in 2013, and gave a speech in Moscow in the middle of the 2016 campaign that criticized U.S. sanctions against Russia.

He has strenuously denied engaging in any untoward behavior, framing himself as a victim of what he calls the “Clinton-Obama-Comey regime.”

The Post noted that Page’s interviews, which took place about a month before special counsel Robert Mueller assumed control of the sprawling federal probe, are the most extensive known questioning of any Trump associate. Mueller’s office is working to determine whether anyone involved in Trump’s campaign wittingly or unwittingly assisted Russia with its efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.

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After James Comey testified earlier this month that he directed a friend to share descriptions of his private conversations with President Donald Trump with a reporter, Trump and his private legal team branded the fired FBI director a “leaker,” pledging to immediately file a complaint against him for sharing “privileged” information with the media.

Two weeks later, no such complaint has been filed, and the ballpark date for when Trump’s legal team says it will be filed keeps sliding later into the summer.

“It’s still being worked on,” Mark Corallo, spokesman for the legal team being led by Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, told TPM late last week.

Attributing the delay to “an effort to be thorough,” Corallo, who worked as a Justice Department spokesman during George W. Bush’s administration, said that a complaint could be filed with “either or both” the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General or Office of Professional Responsibility.

“Both are appropriate offices within the Department of Justice to receive this kind of information,” he explained, adding that a “submission” about Comey’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees was also possible.

Reports first surfaced about an impending complaint against Comey the day after his June 8 testimony, to be filed “early next week.” When nothing came by June 13, Corallo told Reuters the filing “may well slip to next week.” A second week came and went with no filing announcement, although “a source close to Trump outside counsel” told the Washington Examiner on Friday that a complaint could come the week before the July 4 holiday.

Asked for confirmation on Monday, Corallo told TPM via email only that he would “know more in a day or two.”

The complaints, if and when they come, will have little teeth, as the DOJ has limited jurisdiction over former employees. As CNN reported in June, if investigators look into the details of Comey’s testimony and find wrongdoing, the most they can do is make a note in Comey’s permanent file.

In filing a complaint, the President would appear to seek a measure of vindication against a former employee who has openly criticized his administration since being abruptly fired in May. In his appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey testified that he kept memos of his one-on-one discussions with the President out of concern that Trump would “lie” about their interactions. Comey then asked a friend to share his descriptions of those memos, which recounted Trump’s requests that he pledge loyalty and that he quash an FBI investigation into ousted national security adviser Mike Flynn, to the New York Times.

Trump and his attorneys pounced on that revelation, with Kasowitz calling Comey a “leaker” who shared “purported memos of those privileged conversations.”

Legal experts and lawmakers have pushed back on the notion that Comey orchestrating the release of the contents of his memos to the press amounted to leaking. The former FBI director testified that he took care not to divulge any classified information either to the press or before the Senate, and he was no longer a government employee when he discussed his private interactions with Trump. The President did not assert executive privilege over Comey’s testimony.

Threats of legal action that ultimately fail to materialize are part of doing business in Trumpland, where the President continues to employ the same tactics he honed during his years as a real estate mogul and reality TV host. As CNN noted, Trump threatened during the 2016 campaign to sue Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the Louisiana Republican Party, The Washington Post, The New York Times and the dozen-plus women who accused him of sexual misconduct. None of those suits ever materialized.

Bloomberg noted that Trump is also prone to predicting that major new proposals will come in just “two weeks,” a deadline that his administration routinely misses.

Trump famously followed through with one 2006 case against “TrumpNation” author Timothy O’Brien, who wrote that Trump is worth hundreds of millions of dollars less than he claimed at the time. After Trump admitted under oath to making some 30 past false statements, a judge tossed the suit.

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This post has been extensively updated since it was published to reflect the subsequent retraction of CNN’s story.

CNN late Friday retracted an article reporting that the Senate Intelligence Committee was looking into a $10 billion Russian investment fund managed by a Kremlin-run bank tied to several Trump associates.

The original story focused on a Jan. 16 meeting between the chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which is overseen by the state-run Vnesheconombank, and Anthony Scaramucci, Trump campaign adviser and member of the transition team’s executive committee. It asserted that congressional investigators were looking into whether Scaramucci and the fund’s chief executive, Kirill Dmitriev, discussed lifting U.S. sanctions against Russia during that conversation at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Some 24 hours later, the story, which was based on one anonymous “congressional source,” was pulled from CNN’s site. In its place was an editor’s note and an apology to Scaramucci.

“On June 22, 2017, CNN.com published a story connecting Anthony Scaramucci with investigations into the Russian Direct Investment Fund,” the note read. “That story did not meet CNN’s editorial standards and has been retracted. Links to the story have been disabled. CNN apologizes to Mr. Scaramucci.”

Scaramucci retweeted that statement, along with a note expressing appreciation for the network’s “classy” response.

Internally, the backlash from the botched story apparently prompted a firestorm. BuzzFeed published an internal memo that CNNMoney executive editor Rich Barbieri sent to staff imposing rigid publishing guidelines for any articles “involving Russia.” Any that do must now be run past both Barbieri and Jason Farkas, a CNN vice president, according to to the memo.

An anonymous source close to CNN told BuzzFeed that the story was a “massive, massive fuck up,” and that the network was conducting an internal investigation to determine how it ended up published.

The editor’s note does not specify what parts of the story were incorrect or required retraction. Scaramucci acknowledged to CNN in the original story that he had a brief encounter with Dmietriev at a restaurant in Davos, but told the news outlet there was “nothing there.”

Vnesheconombank and the fund it oversees have been under U.S. sanction since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. Both congressional and federal investigators are known to be looking into a meeting Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, had with the bank’s CEO in December.

The Wall Street Journal previously reported that federal investigators are looking into all interactions between Trump, his associates and Vnesheconombank as they try to root out any inappropriate contacts between Russian operatives and the Trump campaign.

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Intelligence obtained by the CIA last summer found that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered a cyber campaign intended to help elect Donald Trump and damage the electoral chances of Hillary Clinton, according to an exhaustive Washington Post report out Friday into the Obama administration’s response to Russia’s meddling in the 2016 campaign.

This explosive information was first delivered to former president Barack Obama in Aug. 2016, according to the newspaper.

The Post investigation details how Obama and his team struggled to develop a response to this unprecedented interference by a foreign country, worrying that they would be seen as trying to tip the scales in the presidential race. By the time the CIA’s warning arrived, the Obama White House knew that Russian hackers were behind cyberattacks on Democratic Party operatives and the Democratic National Committee, and that the FBI had launched an investigation into ties between Russian officials and Trump campaign staffers.

Trump, who has repeatedly cast doubt the extent of Russia’s interference, has criticized the Obama administration for not doing more to “stop them.”

Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testified before the House Intelligence Committee this week that Trump’s repeated insistence that the election would be “rigged” against him stymied their response.

For now, the only action the U.S. has taken in response to Russia is an Obama administration package involving the expulsion of 35 diplomats, closure of two Russian diplomatic compounds, and imposition of new, narrowly targeted economic sanctions.

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Financial dealings involving President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and Manafort’s son-in-law are under scrutiny by federal investigators, the New York Times reported Friday.

Two sources close to the matter told the Times that Manafort bankrolled real estate purchases of luxury apartments and homes in New York and California in collaboration with his son-in-law Jeffrey Yohai, who was sued by a former investor for defrauding him.

The sources said it was unclear if this particular investigation was part of the broader federal probe into Russia’s election interference and possible collusion between Trump associates and Russian operatives. Manafort is under scrutiny in that probe, as well as for a tangle of dealings including his business activities in Russia, whether he appropriately filed foreign lobbying disclosures, and the millions of dollars in secret cash payments he reportedly received for his work for a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party.

Manafort and Yohai declined the Times’ request for comment.

The longtime GOP fixer’s multi-million dollar real estate deals were already known to be of interest to federal agents. NBC reported that investigators subpoenaed records related to a $3.5 million mortgage he took out on his country home in the Hamptons through a shell company named Summerbreeze LLC, which was created the day he resigned from the Trump campaign. The DOJ has also requested Manafort’s bank records from Citizens Financial Group, as the Wall Street Journal reported.

What’s new in the Times report is that Manafort and his wife allegedly took out a series of mortgages on their properties totaling $20 million over the past year, and that he allegedly funneled millions of dollars to finance luxury properties that his son-in-law purchased through shell companies of his own.

A fashion photographer who said he invested $2.9 million with Yohai has sued him for allegedly creating the false illusion of a “quick and large return” on his investment, according to the Times. Andrea Manafort, sister of Yohai’s wife Jessica, said in text messages that were hacked, leaked online, and obtained by the Times that she believed Yohai was “running a Ponzi scheme.”

Yohai denied the accusations in a court filing, according to the newspaper.

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Congress is investigating whether any private voter information allegedly stolen by Russian hackers was passed to or used by the Trump campaign, Time reported Thursday.

Ken Menzel, general counsel of the Illinois State Board of Elections, told Time that 90,000 state voter records were obtained through cyberattacks on their system, 90 percent of which contained drivers license numbers and a quarter of which contained the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers. Two anonymous sources close to congressional investigations into Russia’s election interference say lawmakers want to know if any of this stolen data eventually ended up in the hands of Trump’s team.

Time did not specify which of the five congressional committees looking into Russian interference in the election is investigating this specific thread.

This report is the latest indication that Russia’s cyberattacks on the United States’ electoral infrastructure, which include efforts to delete or alter voter data in Illinois and targeted attacks on election systems in 21 states, are becoming a focus of congressional and federal probes into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

CNN reported last week that the House Intelligence Committee wants to speak with Brad Parscale, digital director for the Trump campaign, while the Senate Intelligence Committee reportedly wants to meet with Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, who oversaw the campaign’s data operations. Campaign and transition officials have also been asked to preserve all documents related to Russia and Ukraine.

Federal investigators are scrutinizing the campaign’s data operation to see if Russian intelligence operatives relied on Trump associates or their data to strategically target specific states and demographic groups with “fake news” stories and social media bots, according to CNN.

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Trump Lawyer John Dowd Resigns

John Dowd, an attorney on President Donald Trump’s outside legal team handling the Russia…