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UK charges two Russians for attempted murder of Skripals with nerve agent

LONDON (Reuters) – British prosecutors on Wednesday charged two Russians for the attempted murder of a former Russian spy and his daughter with a nerve agent, naming suspects for the first time in a case that has caused one of the biggest East-West rifts in decades.Image result for skripals

Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer who betrayed dozens of agents to Britain’s MI6 foreign spy service was found unconscious with his daughter Yulia on a public bench in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.

British police released CCTV images of two Russian men they said flew in to Britain for a weekend to commit murder. Moscow said it had no idea who the men were.

Britain has blamed Russia for the poisonings and identified the poison as Novichok, a nerve agent developed by the Soviet military in the 1970s and 1980s.

Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack. Britain and dozens of other countries have kicked out Russian diplomats over the incident, and Moscow has responded tit-for-tat in the biggest diplomatic expulsions since the Cold War.

Nerve agent used on Skripals \same one that killed Dawn Sturgess

Independent experts confirm Amesbury Novichok was the same nerve agent used to poison Skripals

Neil Basu, head of UK Counter Terrorism policing, said the plot was “a remarkably sophisticated attack” which appeared to be a clear assassination attempt.

British prosecutors named the two suspects as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. Police said they arrived in Britain from Moscow on March 2 at London’s Gatwick airport on an Aeroflot flight and left on March 4.

Basu said they were around 40 years old. They traveled under genuine Russian passports although their names are believed to be aliases. It was not their first trip to Britain.

Basu said he stood by Prime Minister Theresa May who said in March there was no other conclusion than that the Russian state was responsible. Police needed the public’s help worldwide in identifying the men and their earlier movements.

“We would like to hear from anyone who knows them,” Basu said.

Russia’s foreign ministry said the names given by Britain did not mean anything to Moscow.

NOVICHOK PERFUME

The Russians are charged with conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal and the attempted murder of Skripal, his daughter and Nick Bailey, a police officer who was taken ill while attending to the Skripals. They are also charged with use and possession of Novichok, contrary to the Chemical Weapons Act.

A European arrest warrant has been issued for the two Russians, British prosecutors said, but Britain will not ask Moscow to extradite them because Russia’s constitution does not allow its citizens to be extradited.

Basu would not comment on whether the Skripals had faced threats before the attack or where they were currently located. However, he said they were making a good recovery.

A British woman, Dawn Sturgess, died in July after coming across a small bottle containing Novichok in a town near Salisbury where the Skripals were struck down. Her partner, Charlie Rowley, was also stricken but survived.

Police said Rowley and Sturgess had found a counterfeit Nina Ricci Premier Jour perfume bottle which tests later showed had contained Novichok.

Basu said they ha no doubt the two events were connected and they were liaising with prosecutors about bringing charges connected to the poisoning of Sturgess and Rowley.

Britain charged two Russians with the murder of Litvinenko but both remain in Russia. One later won a seat in parliament.

A British inquiry in 2016 concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin probably approved Litvinenko’s murder, an accusation that Moscow has always rejected.

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U.S. and UK stand together in holding Russia accountable for Salisbury poisoning: U.S. ambassador

Image result for US Ambassador to Britain Woody Johnson

Woody Johnson and Donald Trump

LONDON (Reuters) – The United States stands with Britain in holding Russia accountable for its “act of aggression” on British soil, US Ambassador to Britain Woody Johnson said on Wednesday.

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, who were formally accused of attempting to murder former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, are seen in an image handed out by the Metropolitan Police in London, Britain September 5, 2018. Metroplitan Police handout via REUTERS.

will “realize [Trump] has so much to bring to the table” in terms of prosperity, defense and military cooperation, “especially given Brexit,” Johnson said.

British prosecutors have charged two Russians for the attempted murder of a former Russian spy and his daughter with a nerve agent in Salisbury, naming suspects for the first time in a case that has caused one of the biggest East-West rifts in decades.

“The U.S. & UK stand firmly together in holding Russia accountable for its act of aggression on UK soil,” Johnson said on Twitter.

READ RELATED: Theresa May vows ‘no compromise’ on her Brexit plan

South African peacekeepers injured in Democratic Republic of Congo after rebel ambush – report

 

At least two South African peacekeepers were reportedly wounded in a rebel ambush near the epicentre of an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).According to Reuters, the attack occurred early this week and highlighted the challenges authorities were facing in their fight against the deadly diseases.

DRC health officials said they have made some progress in slowing down the disease after experimental vaccines were dispatched.

However, they were unsure if the situation was under control because they had challenges accessing areas.

The peacekeepers’ patrol was attacked in Ngadi by militants, who were believed to belong to the Allied Democratic Forces – a Ugandan Islamist group active in eastern DRC, said spokesperson for the UN mission MONUSCO, Florence Marchal.

“Two soldiers were wounded and their condition was deemed stable this morning,” she told Reuters.

According to a senior correspondent at African Defence Review, Darren Olivier, one of the South African Air Force Oryx helicopters in service with MONUSCO in the DRC, was badly damaged as it tried to evade strong ground fire.

He said the helicopter “landed safely and the crew were fine, but repairs will be needed”.

We’ve received reports that one of the South African Air Force Oryx helicopters in service with MONUSCO in the DRC sustained damage to its rotor blades from foliage while evading strong ground fire. The helicopter landed safely and the crew are fine, but repairs will be needed.

AFRICA – Burundi, the Commission of Inquiry is deeply concerned by the freedom of action and the impunity of the Imbonerakure

Burundi: the Commission of Inquiry is deeply concerned by the freedom of action and the impunity of the Imbonerakure

Image result for Burundi, the Commission of Inquiry is deeply concerned by the freedom of action and the impunity of the Imbonerakure

Investigators accuse government of Burundi of war crimes including execution and torture

Commission of Inquiry on Burundi

AIWA! NO!//Geneva, 5 September 2018 – Serious human rights violations, including some which constitute crimes against humanity, have continued to be committed in Burundi, in 2017 and 2018. In its report presented today, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Burundi describes summary executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, sexual violence and forced disappearances. The Commission is also concerned with the shrinking democratic space in Burundi as well as the growing impoverishment of the population.

“The violations that the Commission documented in its first report have persisted throughout the past year. Some practices, such as the disposal of bodies or operating at night, tend to make these violations less visible. Nevertheless, they are still real”, stated Doudou Diène, the President of the Commission of Inquiry. “The Constitutional Referendum organized in May 2018 and the campaign for the upcoming elections in 2020 have resulted in persecution, threats and intimidation towards persons suspected of opposing the Government or not sharing the ruling party’s line, whether proven or not.”

The findings of the Commission are based on approximately 900 statements of victims of human rights violations, witnesses and alleged perpetrators of such acts, including 400 statements collected this past year. This year, the Government of Burundi has once again refused any dialogue and cooperation with the Commission of Inquiry, despite repeated requests and initiatives from the Commission.

“The members of the youth league of the ruling party, the Imbonerakure, have become increasingly important in the repression, outside any legal framework and with near total impunity. The Commission was in a position to establish that the Imbonerakure acted with the approval and effective control of the Burundian State,” said Françoise Hampson, member of the Commission. “The Imbonerakure harass, control and intimidate the population. Several human rights violations can be attributed to them. They often operate alongside or collaborate with the Police and the National Intelligence Services (SNR) which remain the state organs that are the most involved in the serious human rights violations committed in Burundi.”

Image result for Burundi, the Commission of Inquiry is deeply concerned by the freedom of action and the impunity of the Imbonerakure

Human Rights Watch Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of Burundi | Human Rights Watch

The strengthening of the role played by the Imbonerakure falls within a context of regimentation of the population with a view to silencing any form of opposition. “The control exercised over Burundians by the ruling power and the Imbonerakure increased significantly and is felt in all aspects of daily life”, noted Françoise Hampson. “Civil liberties, such as freedom of expression, association and movement, are today very restricted in Burundi. A significant number of independent journalists are still in exile and others joined them this year. The fate of human rights defenders is also a cause of serious concern, as indicated by the recent sentencing of Germain Rukuki to 32 years in prison, following an unfair trial.”

The political crisis that has plagued the country since April 2015 has had a negative impact on the living conditions of Burundians and on the respect of economic and social rights. “From a country in a development phase, Burundi has reverted to being a country in a situation of humanitarian emergency: the needs in terms of nutrition, water and health of a growing percentage of the population are not met”, said Lucy Asuagbor, member of the Commission. “The Government has contributed to this impoverishment by multiplying taxes and contributions which are collected willingly or by force, such as those put in place for the financing of the 2020 elections. The Government has increased the resources allocated to defence and security – and in particular, to state organs involved in serious human rights violations – at the expense of social expenditure. Corruption and embezzlement of public funds, at the highest level of the Government, has only worsened the situation.”

Human rights violations documented by the Commission of Inquiry were aided by recurring calls for hatred and violence, including by the President of the Republic. These calls took place in a general context of impunity. “The Burundian judicial system has neither the will nor the capacity to establish who is responsible and to prosecute perpetrators of violations”, stated Doudou Diène. “The judiciary has become an instrument of repression used by the executive against any form of protest or opposition. Instead of ensuring respect for the law, guaranteeing the respect of fundamental rights and determining wrongs, judicial institutions are used to cover up crimes and human rights violations committed by the Police, SNR and the Imbonerakure, by giving them impunity.”

The Commission has established a list of alleged perpetrators of crimes against humanity. This list can be made available to any organ or jurisdiction tasked with carrying out independent and credible investigations on human rights violations and abuses committed in Burundi and which will guarantee the safety of the witnesses.

The Commission calls on all the Burundian stakeholders concerned to put an immediate end to human rights violations and abuses. The Commission calls on the Government of Burundi to prosecute state agents and the Imbonerakure involved in these acts. The Commission encourages the Government of Burundi to “engage in a comprehensive reform of the judicial system, in order to guarantee its independence, impartiality and its effectiveness”, as well as reforming the security sector, responsible for numerous human rights violations.

The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi further requests that the United Nations Human Rights council extend its mandate for an additional year. “Our Commission is currently the only international mechanism investigating independently and impartially human rights violations and abuses committed in Burundi and identifying their alleged perpetrators,” stated Doudou Diène. “It is all the more crucial to continue this work as Burundi is preparing for new elections in 2020, which have already resulted in human rights violations and abuse.”

 

USA – Bob Woodward’s new book reveals a ‘nervous breakdown’ of Trump’s presidency

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John Dowd was convinced that President Trump would commit perjury if he talked to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. So, on Jan. 27, the president’s then-personal attorney staged a practice session to try to make his point.In the White House residence, Dowd peppered Trump with questions about the Russia investigation, provoking stumbles, contradictions and lies until the president eventually lost his cool.

“This thing’s a goddamn hoax,” Trump erupted at the start of a 30-minute rant that finished with him saying, “I don’t really want to testify.”

The dramatic and previously untold scene is recounted in “Fear,” a forthcoming book by Bob Woodward that paints a harrowing portrait of the Trump presidency, based on in-depth interviews with administration officials and other principals.

Woodward writes that his book is drawn from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand participants and witnesses that were conducted on “deep background,” meaning the information could be used but he would not reveal who provided it. His account is also drawn from meeting notes, personal diaries and government documents.

Chief of Staff John F. Kelly frequently lost his temper, Bob Woodward writes in “Fear: Trump in the White House.”

© Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post Chief of Staff John F. Kelly frequently lost his temper, Bob Woodward writes in “Fear: Trump in the White House.”Woodward depicts Trump’s anger and paranoia about the Russia inquiry as unrelenting, at times paralyzing the West Wing for entire days. Learning of the appointment of Mueller in May 2017, Trump groused, “Everybody’s trying to get me”— part of a venting period that shellshocked aides compared to Richard Nixon’s final days as president.

The 448-page book was obtained by The Washington Post. Woodward, an associate editor at The Post, sought an interview with Trump through several intermediaries to no avail. The president called Woodward in early August, after the manuscript had been completed, to say he wanted to participate. The president complained that it would be a “bad book,” according to an audio recording of the conversation. Woodward replied that his work would be “tough,” but factual and based on his reporting.

The book’s title derives from a remark that then-candidate Trump made in an interview with Woodward and Post political reporter Robert Costa in 2016. Trump said, “Real power is, I don’t even want to use the word, ‘Fear.’”

A central theme of the book is the stealthy machinations used by those in Trump’s inner sanctum to try to control his impulses and prevent disasters, both for the president personally and for the nation he was elected to lead.

Woodward describes “an administrative coup d’etat” and a “nervous breakdown” of the executive branch, with senior aides conspiring to pluck official papers from the president’s desk so he couldn’t see or sign them.

Again and again, Woodward recounts at length how Trump’s national security team was shaken by his lack of curiosity and knowledge about world affairs and his contempt for the mainstream perspectives of military and intelligence leaders.

At a National Security Council meeting on Jan. 19, Trump disregarded the significance of the massive U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula, including a special intelligence operation that allows the United States to detect a North Korean missile launch in seven seconds vs. 15 minutes from Alaska, according to Woodward. Trump questioned why the government was spending resources in the region at all.

“We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told him.

After Trump left the meeting, Woodward recounts, “Mattis was particularly exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.’ ”

In Woodward’s telling, many top advisers were repeatedly unnerved by Trump’s actions and expressed dim views of him. “Secretaries of defense don’t always get to choose the president they work for,” Mattis told friends at one point, prompting laughter as he explained Trump’s tendency to go off on tangents about subjects such as immigration and the news media.

Inside the White House, Woodward portrays an unsteady executive detached from the conventions of governing and prone to snapping at high-ranking staff members, whom he unsettled and belittled on a daily basis.

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly frequently lost his temper and told colleagues that he thought the president was “unhinged,” Woodward writes. In one small group meeting, Kelly said of Trump: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”

Reince Priebus, Kelly’s predecessor, fretted that he could do little to constrain Trump from sparking chaos. Woodward writes that Priebus dubbed the presidential bedroom, where Trump obsessively watched cable news and tweeted, “the devil’s workshop,” and said early mornings and Sunday evenings, when the president often set off tweetstorms, were “the witching hour.”

Trump apparently had little regard for Priebus. He once instructed then-staff secretary Rob Porter to ignore Priebus, even though Porter reported to the chief of staff, saying that Priebus was “‘like a little rat. He just scurries around.’”

Few in Trump’s orbit were protected from the president’s insults. He often mocked former national security adviser H.R. McMaster behind his back, puffing up his chest and exaggerating his breathing as he impersonated the retired Army general, and once said McMaster dresses in cheap suits, “like a beer salesman.”

Trump told Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a wealthy investor eight years his senior: “I don’t trust you. I don’t want you doing any more negotiations. … You’re past your prime.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was a frequent subject of attacks by Trump.

© Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post Attorney General Jeff Sessions was a frequent subject of attacks by Trump.A near-constant subject of withering presidential attacks was Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump told Porter that Sessions was a “traitor” for recusing himself from overseeing the Russia investigation, Woodward writes. Mocking Sessions’s accent, Trump added, “This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner. … He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama.”

At a dinner with Mattis and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, among others, Trump lashed out at a vocal critic, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). He falsely suggested that the former Navy pilot had been a coward for taking early release from a prisoner-of-war camp in Vietnam because of his father’s military rank and leaving others behind.

Mattis swiftly corrected his boss: “No, Mr. President, I think you’ve got it reversed.” The defense secretary explained that McCain, who died Aug. 25, had in fact turned down early release and was brutally tortured during his five years at the Hanoi Hilton.

“Oh, okay,” Trump replied, according to Woodward’s account.

A new book by White House chronicler Bob Woodward describes US President Donald Trump's staff as constantly trying to control their unpredictable boss: (A new book by White House chronicler Bob Woodward describes US President Donald Trump's staff as constantly trying to control their unpredictable boss

© Provided by AFP (A new book by White House chronicler Bob Woodward describes US President Donald Trump’s staff as constantly trying to control their unpredictable bossWith Trump’s rage and defiance impossible to contain, Cabinet members and other senior officials learned to act discreetly. Woodward describes an alliance among Trump’s traditionalists — including Mattis and Gary Cohn, the president’s former top economic adviser — to stymie what they considered dangerous acts.

“It felt like we were walking along the edge of the cliff perpetually,” Porter is quoted as saying. “Other times, we would fall over the edge, and an action would be taken.”

After Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad launched a chemical attack on civilians in April 2017, Trump called Mattis and said he wanted to assassinate the dictator. “Let’s f***ing kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the f***ing lot of them,” Trump said, according to Woodward.

Mattis told the president that he would get right on it. But after hanging up the phone, he told a senior aide: “We’re not going to do any of that. We’re going to be much more measured.” The national security team developed options for the more conventional airstrike that Trump ultimately ordered.

Cohn, a Wall Street veteran, tried to tamp down Trump’s strident nationalism regarding trade. According to Woodward, Cohn “stole a letter off Trump’s desk” that the president was intending to sign to formally withdraw the United States from a trade agreement with South Korea. Cohn later told an associate that he removed the letter to protect national security and that Trump did not notice that it was missing.

Cohn made a similar play to prevent Trump from pulling the United States out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, something the president has long threatened to do. In spring 2017, Trump was eager to withdraw from NAFTA and told Porter: “Why aren’t we getting this done? Do your job. It’s tap, tap, tap. You’re just tapping me along. I want to do this.”

Then-White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn tried to temper Trump’s nationalistic trade views.

© Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post Then-White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn tried to temper Trump’s nationalistic trade views.Under orders from the president, Porter drafted a notification letter withdrawing from NAFTA. But he and other advisers worried that it could trigger an economic and foreign relations crisis. So Porter consulted Cohn, who told him, according to Woodward: “I can stop this. I’ll just take the paper off his desk.”

Despite repeated threats by Trump, the United States has remained in both pacts. The administration continues to negotiate new terms with South Korea as well as with its NAFTA partners, Canada and Mexico.

Cohn came to regard the president as “a professional liar” and threatened to resign in August 2017 over Trump’s handling of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Cohn, who is Jewish, was especially shaken when one of his daughters found a swastika on her college dorm room.

Trump was sharply criticized for initially saying that “both sides” were to blame. At the urging of advisers, he then condemned white supremacists and neo-Nazis, but almost immediately told aides, “That was the biggest f***ing mistake I’ve made” and the “worst speech I’ve ever given,” according to Woodward’s account.

When Cohn met with Trump to deliver his resignation letter after Charlottesville, the president told him, “This is treason,” and persuaded his economic adviser to stay on. Kelly then confided to Cohn that he shared Cohn’s horror at Trump’s handling of the tragedy — and shared Cohn’s fury with Trump.

“I would have taken that resignation letter and shoved it up his ass six different times,” Kelly told Cohn, according to Woodward. Kelly himself has threatened to quit several times, but has not done so.

Woodward illustrates how the dread in Trump’s orbit became all-encompassing over the course of Trump’s first year in office, leaving some staff members and Cabinet members confounded by the president’s lack of understanding about how government functions and his inability and unwillingness to learn.

At one point, Porter, who departed in February amid domestic abuse allegations, is quoted as saying, “This was no longer a presidency. This is no longer a White House. This is a man being who he is.”

Such moments of panic are a routine feature, but not the thrust of Woodward’s book, which mostly focuses on substantive decisions and internal disagreements, including tensions with North Korea as well as the future of U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

FILE - This June 11, 2012 file photo shows former Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward speaking during an event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Watergate in Washington. Details are starting to come out from journalist Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book on President Donald Trump’s first 18 months in office. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, file)

© The Associated Press FILE – This June 11, 2012 file photo shows former Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward speaking during an event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Watergate in Washington. Details are starting to come out from journalist Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book on President Donald Trump’s first 18 months in office. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, file)Woodward recounts repeated episodes of anxiety inside the government over Trump’s handling of the North Korean nuclear threat. One month into his presidency, Trump asked Dunford for a plan for a preemptive military strike on North Korea, which rattled the combat veteran.

In the fall of 2017, as Trump intensified a war of words with Kim Jong Un, nicknaming North Korea’s dictator “Little Rocket Man” in a speech at the United Nations, aides worried the president might be provoking Kim. But, Woodward writes, Trump told Porter that he saw the situation as a contest of wills: “This is all about leader versus leader. Man versus man. Me versus Kim.”

The book also details Trump’s impatience with the war in Afghanistan, which had become America’s longest conflict. At a July 2017 National Security Council meeting, Trump dressed down his generals and other advisers for 25 minutes, complaining that the United States was losing, according to Woodward.

“The soldiers on the ground could run things much better than you,” Trump told them. “They could do a much better job. I don’t know what the hell we’re doing.” He went on to ask, “How many more deaths? How many more lost limbs? How much longer are we going to be there?”

The president’s family members, while sometimes touted as his key advisers by other Trump chroniclers, are minor players in Woodward’s account, popping up occasionally in the West Wing and vexing adversaries.

Woodward recounts an expletive-laden altercation between Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter and senior adviser, and Stephen K. Bannon, the former chief White House strategist.

“You’re a goddamn staffer!” Bannon screamed at her, telling her that she had to work through Priebus like other aides. “You walk around this place and act like you’re in charge, and you’re not. You’re on staff!”

Ivanka Trump, who had special access to the president and worked around Priebus, replied: “I’m not a staffer! I’ll never be a staffer. I’m the first daughter.”

Such tensions boiled among many of Trump’s core advisers. Priebus is quoted as describing Trump officials not as rivals but as “natural predators.”

“When you put a snake and a rat and a falcon and a rabbit and a shark and a seal in a zoo without walls, things start getting nasty and bloody,” Priebus says.

Hovering over the White House was Mueller’s inquiry, which deeply embarrassed the president. Woodward describes Trump calling his Egyptian counterpart to secure the release of an imprisoned charity worker and President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi saying: “Donald, I’m worried about this investigation. Are you going to be around?”

Trump relayed the conversation to Dowd and said it was “like a kick in the nuts,” according to Woodward.

The book vividly recounts the ongoing debate between Trump and his lawyers about whether the president would sit for an interview with Mueller. On March 5, Dowd and Trump attorney Jay Sekulow met in Mueller’s office with the special counsel and his deputy, James Quarles, where Dowd and Sekulow reenacted Trump’s January practice session.

Woodward’s book recounts the debate between Trump and his lawyers, including John Dowd, regarding whether the president will sit for an interview with special counsel Robert. S. Mueller III.

© Richard Drew/AP Woodward’s book recounts the debate between Trump and his lawyers, including John Dowd, regarding whether the president will sit for an interview with special counsel Robert. S. Mueller III.Dowd then explained to Mueller and Quarles why he was trying to keep the president from testifying: “I’m not going to sit there and let him look like an idiot. And you publish that transcript, because everything leaks in Washington, and the guys overseas are going to say, ‘I told you he was an idiot. I told you he was a goddamn dumbbell. What are we dealing with this idiot for?’ ”

“John, I understand,” Mueller replied, according to Woodward.

Later that month, Dowd told Trump: “Don’t testify. It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit.”

But Trump, concerned about the optics of a president refusing to testify and convinced that he could handle Mueller’s questions, had by then decided otherwise.

“I’ll be a real good witness,” Trump told Dowd, according to Woodward.

“You are not a good witness,” Dowd replied. “Mr. President, I’m afraid I just can’t help you.”

The next morning, Dowd resigned.

philip.rucker@washpost.com

robert.costa@washpost.com

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