Former White House lawyer sought to pay Manafort, Gates legal fees: report
© Greg Nash

John Dowd, the former head of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report Trump to nominate former Monsanto exec to top Interior position White House aides hadn’t heard of Trump's new tax cut: report MORE's special counsel legal team, reportedly wanted to transfer thousands of dollars from a White House defense fund to help Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortFormer Trump lawyer: Mueller probe is not a witch hunt Manafort appears in wheelchair at court hearing Manafort to be sentenced in Virginia in February MORE and Richard Gates, who both worked on Trump's 2016 campaign.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Dowd, who left Trump's legal defense team earlier this year over disagreements on its direction, told officials that Manafort and Gates were in immediate need of funds for their legal defenses against charges brought by the special counsel. Dowd wanted money transferred from a fund set up to pay legal costs of current Trump administration officials.

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The idea was rebuffed by White House ethics advisers, the Journal reports, who said such a transfer to Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, or Gates, a campaign adviser, would look like an attempt to stop their potential cooperation with authorities.

Dowd later told administration officials that he planned to donate $25,000 of his own money to Manafort's defense, but he says that he was advised against that transfer as well, and decided against it.

“Upon the advice I received, I did not make that contribution," he told the Journal.

Manafort and Gates have both since pleaded guilty to federal charges and are assisting special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE in his probe of Russia's election interference and any possible coordination with the Trump campaign.

Dowd said this week that prosecutors working with Mueller's team were too harsh on some former Trump associates.

“I was offended as a citizen and a lawyer," Dowd told the Journal.

In February, Gates pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of making a false statement to the FBI. 

Earlier this month, Manafort pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of attempted witness tampering after already being convicted in August of eight counts of bank and tax fraud.