On the morning after President Donald Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides” of the violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, one of his top lawyers circulated an email equating Confederate general Robert E. Lee with George Washington and saying Black Lives Matter had been “totally infiltrated” by terrorists, The New York Times reported.
The email was forwarded Wednesday to more than two dozen lawyers, officials, journalists and others by John Dowd, the former Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld partner who assumed a prominent role in the president’s legal team in June, the Times reported.
In an excerpt of the email, which the Times said “echoed secessionist Civil War propaganda,” its author wrote “there literally is no difference between” Lee and Washington, citing their ownership of slaves and their roles as rebel commanders.
A proposal to remove a 93-year-old statute of Lee from Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park helped draw Klu Klux Klan members, neo-Nazi groups and other white supremacists to last weekend’s “Unite the Right” rally in the city, where 32-year-old counter-protester Heather Heyer was killed on Saturday.
The Times report said Dowd had received the email from former hip hop label owner Jerome Almon on Tuesday night, after Trump’s widely criticized news conference blaming the “alt-left” for part of Saturday’s violence. Its subject line was “The Information that Validates President Trump on Charlottesville,” the Times reported.
Several business executives pointedly distanced themselves from Trump after his statements on Charlottesville, leading two of his key economic advisory councils to disband on Wednesday.
Dowd, a former Marine Corps captain, retired from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld’s partnership in 2015. A veteran Washington white-collar defense lawyer, he’s been described as aggressive and “hard-charging.” After he joined Trump’s legal team, former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara tweeted a link to an email Dowd once sent asking a Wall Street Journal reporter “How long are you going to suck Preet’s teat?”
When reached by the Times on Wednesday, Dowd criticized its reporter for “sticking your nose in my personal email” and said, “People send me things. I forward them,” before hanging up, the paper said.
Dowd later told The Washington Post that he was a Civil War history buff who “shares a lot of things with people.” He “said it was unfair to equate forwarding an email with espousing its contents,” according to the Post.
Last month another Trump lawyer, Marc Kasowitz of Kasowitz Benson Torres, took a lower-profile role on the president’s legal team soon after he acknowledged sending profanity-laden emails to a stranger who had urged him to resign.