FAIRBANKS — Alaska Rep. Don Young’s name pops up — and not in a good way — on a page of Bob Woodward’s book “Fear: Trump in the White House.”
Young, who has spent more than half of his 85 years in Washington, D.C., appears during an exchange between John Dowd, who served for a time as an attorney for President Donald Trump, and Bob Mueller, the special counsel investigating the Russian attack on the 2016 U.S. election.
I’m guessing that Dowd, a key figure in the Trump saga, relayed this conversation to Woodward.
“Years ago, at a Marine Corps parade, Dowd had run into Mueller when he was FBI director,” Woodward writes. Mueller served as FBI director from 2001 to 2013.
Mueller asked Dowd, “What are you up to?”
“I’m representing Congressman Don Young,” Dowd replied.
“That crook?” Mueller asked. “How could you do that?”
Dowd was displeased. “That’s our system,” he supposedly told Mueller.
Defense attorneys often become overly defensive when anyone asks “How can you defend so-and-so?” Mueller knows the system as well as Dowd.
Woodward writes that “Dowd was offended that the FBI director would speak that way.”
Dowd collected a small fortune in legal fees from Young, who was never charged with a crime.
Young was under investigation for years and raised money for the Don Young Legal Expense Trust to supplement campaign money that went for legal aid.
In 2007-2008 alone, his legal fees topped $1 million, with a big chunk of that going to Dowd’s firm.
There has never been a full explanation from Young about these matters.
Dowd, who wrote the report that led to the banning of Pete Rose from Major League Baseball and represented Sen. John McCain in a 1990 ethics investigation, had long been a high-end D.C. lawyer when Young became a client.
Dowd headed the criminal litigation division at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Field. He retired from that firm in 2014.
More than a decade ago, Young was under investigation in connection with the Veco scandal and Bill Allen, the former contractor and Republican kingmaker in Alaska politics. There were other investigations as well, such as the Coconut Road case in Florida, a case in which a $10 million earmark went to a project favored by a Young campaign supporter.
He was also under scrutiny for using campaign money for personal travel and other expenses, based on comments to criminal investigators by a former aide, and for the particulars of his legal defense fund.
Dowd told the New York Times that the former aide was wrong in claiming that Young put campaign money to improper use on everything from charter flights to Fort Yukon to dinners and dry cleaning,
The full range of Department of Justice investigations has never been revealed.
In a 2010 FBI memo released two years later, the agency said, “After review by the Chief of the Public Integrity Section, Department of Justice, it was determined that there was ultimately not evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to ultimately convict Congressman Young.”
Dowd said the Coconut Road investigation ended in 2010 with “no action against my client, Congressman Young. Furthermore, a second branch of government, the Ethics Committee of the House of Representatives, also fully examined the matters and concluded there was no basis for action against Rep. Young.”
In 2014, Alaska reporter Richard Mauer asked for a comment from Young and his lawyer about an investigation that led to a letter of reprimand from the ethics committee.
“A waste of time. Do not do it!” Dowd replied. Mauer said that Dowd apparently hit “reply all” on the email, instead of just communicating with Young’s spokesman.
In 2014, the House Ethics Committee called on Young to repay $59,063 to his campaign and donors for hunting trips, plane rides and other items that were not reported. In 2013, Young pulled $60,000 from his legal defense fund to pay Dowd’s firm.
The violations of House rules included such things as acceptance of a $434 pair of boots and two $10,000 trips to a Texas game ranch. Young apologized for what he said were oversights.
On that occasion, Dowd told public radio reporter Liz Ruskin about record-keeping challenges and how “some of them are tough calls.”
“There are people who are campaign supporters, there are people who have an interest in transportation, there are friends of his, so that all gets mixed together sometimes on these trips. Sometimes it didn’t get sorted out. Sometimes it did.”
Woodward’s book concludes with a statement that before Dowd resigned from Trump’s legal team he realized that the president’s fatal flaw is that he is a “(expletive) liar.” Dowd denies he ever said Trump was a liar or that he warned him he might end up in an “orange jump suit.”
Dermot Cole is a longtime Alaskan, an author of several history books and a former Daily News-Miner staff columnist. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.