TRANSCRIPT: Former Trump attorney John Dowd's interview on ABC News' 'The Investigation' podcast

A transcript of John Dowd’s interview as it appears in episode 1 of the podcast.

ByABC News
February 12, 2019, 3:00 AM

President Donald Trump’s former attorney John Dowd sat down for a wide-ranging interview for premiere episode of “The Investigation," a new ABC News podcast focused on the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller. A transcript of Dowd’s interview as it appears in episode 1 of the podcast follows here:

ABC NEWS' KYRA PHILLIPS: Well, the question at the top of everyone’s mind – the highly anticipated Mueller report. Will it actually clear president trump and member of his campaign? Here now the man we’ve been talking about – our conversation with President Trump’s former attorney John Dowd. So, John, word is the Mueller report is going to drop within the next couple of weeks.

JOHN DOWD: I don't think there'll be a report. The rules of the department say, no report.

PHILLIPS: So what do you think's gonna, what do you think it will be? It will just…

DOWD: I don't know. I think-- I mean, a declination's a declination. It's like-- you know, I mean, I've written a declination or told my superiors or the attorney general what I've declined on. I did the internal investigation of the F.B.I. I declined, probably, 20 cases there. I just--

ABC NEWS' CHRIS VLASTO: So you don't think the public's gonna see anything. You think it's $40 million. Mueller investigated it. And that's it.

DOWD: No, but the rules of the department, just put yourself-- put yourself in the president's shoes. Let's say we investigate you guys. And it comes out you're a witness and a subject. You cooperate transparently. And we take all those facts. And we say, you know, "There's nothin' here." The idea that you would take that information and make it public, you know, violates the whole concept of the grand jury. (NOISE) What's the grand jury for? To protect the innocent. And by the way, I've read thousands of grand juries. And I-- it does protect the innocent. I mean, maybe one in ten cases, you would bring. But you would investigate some-- I mean, I'm talking about organized crime, public corruption. Your I mean, you come-- you come close to really-- awful stuff. But is it a crime? Is it prosecutable? No. Does that ever get reported? No.

PHILLIPS: So you're saying, when Mueller's report drops, it's gonna be a flop. You’re saying, we're not gonna--

DOWD: Oh, I will be shocked, if anything regarding the president is made public, other than, "We're done."

VLASTO: That's a…that's a big headline. That's you know, I…

DOWD: But you know, the president has-- and his lawyers have-- been fairly transparent. I mean, it's-- you know, everybody knows who the witnesses were. And the White House documents are another question, particularly the communications by counsel with the president, which we gave to Bob. So I mean, Bob-- I mean, he-- there's no time in history has anybody had this kinda look at communications with the president.

PHILLIPS: Do you respect what Mueller is doing? I know you know Mueller well.

DOWD: Well, I respected it in the beginning. And I started out. And I-- it's my s-- my style is I always trust the other side, until I didn't. In my opinion, on March 5th, we were done. He had everything. He said he had everything. He told me that no one had lied. He told me they had every document we asked for. He told me that it was nothing more. He told me that the president was not a target. That is, he did not have any exposure, that he was a witness subject, which is perfectly normal for someone's conduct you're looking at, but they don't have exposure. What people don't understand about the president, and I think the same would be w-- with you, is y-- you have too much information in your life. When you go back and talk about f-- Flynn or Comey, those events, while magnified in the media, are nothin', not compared to the threat of the Soviet Union, the threat of the-- China, dealing with Japan, dealing with Korea. I mean, the amount of information that he intakes every day, gets prepared for, is staggering. And in my questioning him or talking to him, he questioned w-- you know, first question, easy. Second question, easy. Third question, he wasn't sure. And he doesn't like being unsure. So he'll guess. There's your trap, right there. It's not whether he lies or not. Everybody wants to get into this, you know-- this integrity business. It's not a matter of integrity. It's overload.

PHILLIPS: John, why didn't you in-- advise him to do an interview with Bob Mueller, just let him sit down with Bob Muller, let him be interviewed? What were you worried about?

DOWD: I was-- what I was worried about is that he really couldn't do it. He couldn't do it. There's no way he could-- I mean, we'd have to script it. Matter of fact, I told Bob. I said, "Why don't you just let us script it?" Because Flynn, Papadopoulos, Gates, I mean, look what Bob's doing', what I call nickel-dime process crimes. I mean, I r-- I ran a strike force. I-- I ran big corruption cases. I didn't go around, picking scabs and just making any case I could make. If there was a petty case, I shifted it to someone else. I didn't do it. And that's where I disagree with Bob.

VLASTO: But the president ended up taking-- or the president's lawyers ended up taking your advice, right? They ended up--

DOWD: He did. By the way--

VLASTO: --doing

DOWD: --they didn't-- they never disagreed with me. The team, Giuliani and the Raskins and-- and Jay never disagreed with me.

VLASTO: But what do you think Mueller's been doing', then? That was March that you left, right, March of last year, 2017--

PHILLIPS: March 8th?

VLASTO: --2018. What do you-- why-- what do you think has taken Mueller so long?

DOWD: I don't know. All I can tell you is what I do know. And I know a lot. Because as people have found out, we communicate on this side of the fence. Matter of fact, we've got, probably, better intelligence than they do. You know-- without questioning anybody's good faith, 'cause there are some very good people over there-- it-- it's been-- it's been a waste of time. And it's been petty. And it's been bureaucratic. And you don't need to do that. When you're dealing at this level, when you're dealing at this level, you're playing' the World Series, okay? And you don't-- you don't-- you don't get down with the petty stuff here.

VLASTO: What do you think the democrats will say, if the report is submitted and not made public. What do you think the

DOWD: Oh, they'll go crazy, like they always do. I mean, you know, they'll whine and cry. Republicans will do the same thing, you know? But you know, it's just-- "Oh, we can't wait." Grassley says, "I can't wait to get the report from Mueller." Well, Mueller's-- has no obligation-- all he is a departmental attorney, nothing more, okay? That's it. I mean, he abides by the rules. And by the way, it's gotta go up-- it's gotta go up to Barr.

VLASTO: Well, you must know Barr rather well, I assume--

DOWD: I-- you know, I don't know, I know of him. And I left-- I had left the department, when he was attorney general. But he was a great attorney general. He did a terrific job. And I am so pleased that he's gonna be back. 'Cause he knows the place from top to bottom. And he's very bright. And he's gonna-- he's gonna call it right down the middle and do a good job.

PHILLIPS: That's quite the opposite from what you've said about-- the leadership of the Justice Department. I mean, you have just lambasted, (LAUGH) you know, everybody else previously. So you're seeing a shift here.

DOWD: Well, look. I you know, I tried to deal with Rosenstein. Early on, we wrote a letter to Mueller, saying, "Look. Comey's the accuser in this phony investigation. We think there are other issues in-- regarding his conduct, as to the origin of this whole business." Turns out, not only was I right, but Comey admitted there were no facts to investigate the president at all. There was no collusion. So—I, and then, so-- Bob said he wasn't looking' at it. So I wrote to Rosenstein. He blew me off. That's not leadership. That's not accountability. This is a very serious-- I mean, we were very serious. And we did it in writing. We did it politely. We did it confidentially. And he just blew us off. So I lost all respect for Rob Rosenstein. And Sessions, I don't know what he was doing. I'm not sure Sessions knows what he was doing’.

PHILLIPS: Michael Cohen, we've gotta ask you about Michael Cohen. The joint defense agreements, what did you learn from the Michael Cohen investigation? And what does Michael Cohen know?

DOWD: You know what he knows? And I can't-- I never discuss joint defense, because of confidential communications. We were just-- we were just briefed, like every other witness, on what he was gonna tell the House and Senate and-- and other things.

VLASTO: But when you saw--

DOWD: And Michael Cohen, you know, has done a great job of putting the rope around his neck. So--

VLASTO: But when you saw what-- the Southern District of New York did, raiding him, he was the president's lawyer at the time, right, or one of the lawyer--

DOWD: Well, he was-- he was-- he was a minor personal lawyer on some personal matters.

VLASTO: Your client is a prolific tweeter. And as a lawyer, did that-- that must've frustrated you. That must've-- said, "Oh, my God. I wish.."

DOWD: It's just something-- it's just a fact of life. You just deal with it as best you can. And on my suggested tweet, I just-- you know, he wanted to tweet about something'. And I-- made a suggestion and et cetera. And of course, you know, the media went crazy, you know--

VLASTO: Well, not that tweet. How about all the other tweets? How about all his tweets?

DOWD: I don't--

VLASTO: You think it causes damage or, I mean, makes it worse, adds gasoline, fuel, to the fire-

DOWD: I'll let-- I'll let someone else-- evaluate that. We got our job done. I don't wanna-- I don't wanna, you know, take sides in that-- in that debate. You know-- would I--

PHILLIPS: How about this. Don't take sides--

DOWD: would I, would I rather it go another way? Of course. But look, the president's the president. I know, what I know what I've got on my hands. And you know, if I don't like it, I can always exit. But-- you know, I'm his friend. I'm his advocate. I know what the case is. There is no case. And my job is to sorta bring that home. And we did the very best we could to bring it home. I think it is coming' home. And I think it's coming' home in the same shape. And you know, and then, you know, there are people in the press, who say, "Well, he must have s-- surprise." He didn't have-- I know exactly what he has. I know exactly what every witness said, what every document said. It's-- I know exactly what he asked. And I know what-- I know what-- you know, what the --what the conclusion or the result is. So--

PHILLIPS: What does he have? What's the result? What's the conclusion?

DOWD: Decline. There's no basis. There's no exposure. It's been a terrible waste of time. What's worse is let's get on the other side of this, how it all happened. This is one of the greatest frauds this country's ever seen. And I'm just shocked that Bob Mueller didn't call it that way and say, "I'm being used." I would’ve done that. If I were in his shoes in this thing, I'd have gone to the-- I'd have gone to Sessions and Rosenstein and said, "Look. This is nonsense. We are being used by a cabal in the F.B.I. to get even."

PHILLIPS: So what do you say--

DOWD: This is awful. I mean, the corruption--

PHILLIPS: Let's talk about what we know.

DOWD: --at the top of the F.B.I. is staggering. And that's how this all happened. And by the way, look at what the F.B.I. witnesses have said. "I know w-- I know about no collusion." I mean, Comey knew nothing about collusion.


DOWD: So what are we doing then?

PHILLIPS: What do you say to Trump's relationship with Putin? What do you say to the discussions about a Trump Moscow deal-- everything that's out there, everything--

DOWD: There was no deal. There was no deal. Trump believes he could-- he could deal with Putin. You know, he's found out what it's like, dealing' with Putin. He's been educated, like every president is educated. I remember Hillary, "Let's hit the reset button." I mean, what a joke. So they're all-- you know, the thing is, when you're president, you can't guarantee any results. You have to do what you have to do. But there's no-- there's nothing out there. There's no project in Moscow. They have every document known to mankind. That's all ginned-up nonsense. But they have-- they have all the emails. They have the Sater stuff. They have the Cohen stuff. There is nothing more.

VLASTO: You're-- you're--

DOWD: And they know it. And not only do they have it, but they've questioned people about it, exhaustively. I-- yeah.

VLASTO: But looking forward, the-- put your crystal ball for the next two years of this presidency. What do you see? What do you see for not policy. But you’ve been in Washington a long time. And it's a divided--

DOWD: You mean the--

VLASTO: --Congress.

DOWD: You mean investigations?


DOWD: Well, I guess--

VLASTO: And not Mueller-related.

DOWD: I guess the Hill is gonna do what they're gonna do. And I expect the White House, to the extent it can, will cooperate. But I don't think it'll be shy about its privileges. Now, you're-- now, you're dealing' with another branch of government. You're not dealing' with Mueller, who's in the executive. Big deal, big deal. So for historical reasons, for constitutional reasons, they've gotta be careful, okay?

VLASTO: How do you think history will look at the Mueller investigation ten years from now, 20 years from now?

DOWD: Not well.

PHILLIPS: Robert Mueller. How will he go down in history?

DOWD: I don't know. He's gonna have to decide that.

PHILLIPS: Donald J. Trump.

DOWD: Full plate. A man with, a man with a-- with a big heart who means well, but has, you know, had all kinds of challenges. But he-- but he-- you know, I'm in his corner. You know why I'm in his corner? 'Cause he's the boss. He governs this country.

PHILLIPS: Thank you, John.

VLASTO: Thank you, John.

"The Investigation" is a podcast series offering an in-depth look at special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath, analyzing the potential fallout and political consequences. Hosted by ABC News correspondent Kyra Phillips and the ABC News investigative team, led by Senior Executive Producer Chris Vlasto. "The Investigation" is available for free on Apple Podcasts (via iPhone), Google Podcasts (via Android), Spotify (via smartphone and desktop), Stitcher (via smartphone and desktop), TuneIn (via smartphone and desktop), the ABC News app (via your smartphone) or your favorite podcast player.

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