John Dowd, President Trump’s former lead lawyer on the Mueller investigation who is reported to have discussed presidential pardons with attorneys for Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, has direct experience in successfully obtaining presidential pardons for embattled political figures.
In the waning weeks of the Clinton Administration, Dowd moved quickly to prepare a petition for a presidential pardon for former Arizona Governor J. Fife Symington III.
In late 2000, Symington was facing a federal retrial on bank and wire fraud charges related to his work as a commercial real estate developer prior to being elected Arizona governor in 1992. Federal prosecutors offered Symington a choice of either pleading guilty to one felony account with no prison time and paying a $60,000 fine, or stand trial on 17 charges.
Dowd had represented Symington during the initial criminal trial in 1997. The jury returned six guilty verdicts and Symington resigned as governor. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison but never spent a day behind bars. The judge allowed Symington to remain free pending an appeal.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals over turned the verdicts in 1999 ruling that the trial judge improperly removed a juror that had refused to participate in deliberations while insisting that Symington was innocent of all charges.
“Throughout this investigative and prosecutive nightmare, Fife Symington has been open, candid and forthright in dealing with the allegations against him,” Dowd wrote in an affidavit attached to the pardon petition. “He conducted himself with great courage, dignity and grace in the face of public ridicule and humiliation.”
Dowd claimed that Symington “demonstrated every day his respect and support for our system of laws, notwithstanding the terrible injustice visited upon his and his family for 10 years.”
“He put the people of Arizona first by resigning his office in the face of unjust jury verdict,” Dowd wrote.
President Clinton pardoned Symington on his last day in office as prosecutors were preparing to file 17 charges.