Donald Trump Was 'Guessing' Answers to Michael Flynn Question During Dowd's Mock Interview: Woodward Book

During a mock interview between President Donald Trump and his former lawyer, John Dowd, which was meant to prepare the president for a possible interview with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, Dowd reportedly grilled the president about his handling of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.  

The interview is described in detail in Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward’s new book, Fear, which is not out until next week. A new excerpt from the book obtained Wednesday by The Atlantic showed that numerous questions posed to the president by Dowd pertained to Flynn’s conversations with a former Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

It was revealed Tuesday in Woodward’s book that Dowd held the mock interview with Trump in January, but the contents of it were unknown. Dowd would not allow Trump to testify to Mueller’s team because it would end with the president wearing an “orange jumpsuit.” 

Prior to Trump taking office, The Washington Post reported leaked conversations obtained by the FBI between Flynn and Kislyak that were centered on Russian sanctions imposed by the U.S.

Once reports emerged in February 2017 of Flynn’s prior interaction with Kislyak, he was fired as Trump’s national security adviser. At the time, the White House said it was because Flynn lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

On December 1, 2017, Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Kislyak over sanctions. The day after Flynn’s guilty plea, Trump revealed via tweet that Flynn was “fired” because, in addition to Pence, he lied to the FBI. The following month in January 2018 was when Dowd reportedly sat down with Trump for the mock interview in preparation for a Mueller inquiry.

“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI,” Trump said. “He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”

"When did you first learn that there was a problem with General Flynn?" Dowd asked Trump in their mock interview, according to an excerpt from Woodward’s book obtained by The Atlantic. "I'm not sure,” Trump replied, adding that it was probably when White House counsel Don McGahn talked with former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates.  

Yates reportedly warned McGahn in January 2017 that Flynn misled both Pence and the FBI about his talks with Kislyak. The campaign did not oust Flynn until 17 days later.

Dowd played the role of prosecutor and told Trump to “thoroughly [focus] on listening” to his questions.

“What’d you do about it?…Did you call Flynn in?...Did you talk to Flynn at all?" Dowd asked.

The majority of the president’s answers were “I’m not sure,” “I don’t know,” and “I can’t remember,” according to Woodward’s book.

“If you don't know the facts, I'd just prefer you to say, 'Bob, I just don't remember,'” Dowd told Trump, according to Woodward. “Instead of sort of guessing and making all kinds of wild conclusions."

After Dowd pressed the president repeatedly, as Mueller’s team likely would, Trump reportedly became angry and, among other things, said he “felt very bad” for Flynn, according to Woodward.  

Mueller told Trump’s legal team that he would accept written answers from the president rather than an in-person interview about whether his campaign conspired with Russian election interference, according to a Tuesday report by The New York Times.  

Woodward ended his book by saying: “In the man and his presidency Dowd had seen the tragic flaw. In the political back-and-forth, the evasions, the denials, the tweeting, the obscuring, crying ‘Fake News,’ the indignation, Trump had one overriding problem that Dowd knew but could not bring himself to say to the president: ‘You're a fucking liar.’”

In a statement Tuesday, Dowd disputed ever calling the president a “liar” and that Woodward’s book was “an endless cycle of accusations and misrepresentations based on anonymous statements from unknown malcontents.”