President Trump’s personal lawyer on Wednesday forwarded an email to conservative journalists, government officials and friends that echoed secessionist Civil War propaganda and declared that the group Black Lives Matter “has been totally infiltrated by terrorist groups.”
The email forwarded by John Dowd, who is leading the president’s legal team, painted the Confederate general Robert E. Lee in glowing terms and equated the South’s rebellion to that of the American Revolution against England. Its subject line — “The Information that Validates President Trump on Charlottesville” — was a reference to comments Mr. Trump made earlier this week in the aftermath of protests in the Virginia college town.
“You cannot be against General Lee and be for General Washington,” the email reads, “there literally is no difference between the two men.”
The contents of the email are at the heart of a roiling controversy over race and history that turned deadly last weekend in Charlottesville, where white nationalist groups clashed with protesters over the planned removal of a statue of Lee. An Ohio man with ties to white nationalist groups drove his car through a crowd, killing one woman and injuring many others, authorities say.
In a fiery news conference on Tuesday, Mr. Trump blamed “both sides” for that violence. He said many of those who opposed the statue’s removal were good people protesting the loss of their culture, and he questioned whether taking down statues of Lee could lead to monuments of Washington also being removed.
His words were widely criticized in Washington but were praised by white supremacists, including a former Ku Klux Klan leader.
Mr. Dowd received the email on Tuesday night and forwarded it on Wednesday morning to more than two dozen recipients, including a senior official at the Department of Homeland Security, The Wall Street Journal editorial page and journalists at Fox News and The Washington Times. There is no evidence that any of the journalists used the contents of the email in their coverage. One of the recipients provided a copy to The New York Times.
Mr. Almon said he hoped Mr. Dowd would circulate his email.
“I was hoping it would get in the hands of President Trump — I quite frankly hope he would review it right now because his presidency is on the line,” Mr. Almon said in the interview. “I don’t believe the president is getting the correct advice or proper information. Someone reading what I sent to Dowd will view Robert E. Lee differently.”
There is no evidence that Mr. Dowd sent the email to Mr. Trump. Other recipients include Washington lawyers and members of Mr. Dowd’s family.
Mr. Dowd circulated the email hours after the White House issued its own talking points to Republicans defending the president.
“The president was entirely correct — both sides of the violence in Charlottesville acted inappropriately, and bear some responsibility,” the White House said. Those talking points, circulated on Tuesday night, did not address Mr. Trump’s comments about Lee and Washington.
The email that Mr. Dowd forwarded, however, issues a full-throated endorsement of those comments. It declared that Lee “saved America” by opting to surrender rather than launch guerrilla attacks in the final days of the Civil War.
Professor Giesberg said it is true that Lee rejected such tactics, but his decision did not save America.
“It’s like a history I don’t even recognize,” she said.
In an interview, Mr. Almon said he is not a Republican and that he does not reflexively support Mr. Trump.
“I’m against racism,” he said.
Mr. Almon said that he had also provided information about the F.B.I. to the office of Representative Devin Nunes of California, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
An email Mr. Almon provided to The Times showed that he had been in communication in March with Mr. Nunes’s office. There is no evidence that Mr. Nunes circulated that email.
[The New York Times]