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.
âYouâre sticking your nose in my personal email?â Mr. Dowd told The Times in a brief telephone interview. âPeople send me things. I forward them.â He then hung up.
The emailâs author, Jerome Almon, runs several websites alleging government conspiracies and arguing that the F.B.I. has been infiltrated by Islamic terrorists. He once unsuccessfully sued the State Department for $900 million over claims of discrimination.
Mr. Almonâs email said that Black Lives Matter, a group that formed to protest the use of force by police against African-Americans, is being directed by terrorists. Mr. Almon blamed the group for deadly violence against police last year in Texas and Louisiana.
The emailâs comparison of secessionists to the nationâs Founding Fathers echoes an early Confederate rallying cry, said Judith Giesberg, a Villanova University historian and editor of The Journal of the Civil War Era. Washingtonâs face appeared on Confederate money, she said, and secessionists were eager to place their rebellion in the context of the American Revolution.
âThe first states to secede drew a straight line back to the Revolution,â she said in a telephone interview. âThey said they were the inheritors of this revolutionary tradition that traces back to Washington.â
Mr. Almon listed several reasons Lee is no different from Washington. âBoth rebelled against the ruling government,â the email reads, adding, âBoth saved America.â
Mr. Almon, who is black, said in his email to Mr. Dowd that the protesters should âgo back to the ghettos and do raise their children and rebuild places like Detroit.â
In a telephone interview, Mr. Almon said he sent the email to follow up on a phone call he had last week with Mr. Dowd. He said he had called to offer damaging information about James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, and to provide other information about the Justice Departmentâs ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign.
Mr. Almon said he hoped Mr. Dowd would circulate his email.
âI was hoping it would get in the hands of President Trump â I quite frankly hope he would review it right now because his presidency is on the line,â Mr. Almon said in the interview. âI donât believe the president is getting the correct advice or proper information. Someone reading what I sent to Dowd will view Robert E. Lee differently.â
There is no evidence that Mr. Dowd sent the email to Mr. Trump. Other recipients include Washington lawyers and members of Mr. Dowdâs family.
Mr. Dowd circulated the email hours after the White House issued its own talking points to Republicans defending the president.
âThe president was entirely correct â both sides of the violence in Charlottesville acted inappropriately, and bear some responsibility,â the White House said. Those talking points, circulated on Tuesday night, did not address Mr. Trumpâs comments about Lee and Washington.
The email that Mr. Dowd forwarded, however, issues a full-throated endorsement of those comments. It declared that Lee âsaved Americaâ 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.
âItâs like a history I donât even recognize,â she said.
In an interview, Mr. Almon said he is not a Republican and that he does not reflexively support Mr. Trump.
âIâm against racism,â 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. Nunesâ office. There is no evidence that Mr. Nunes circulated that email.