Former federal prosecutor Joseph diGenova will join President Donald Trump’s legal team later this week, adding to the president’s Russia response another bulldog lawyer who argued earlier this year that Trump had been framed by the Justice Department and FBI “with a falsely created crime.”
“I have worked with Joe for many years and have full confidence that he will be a great asset in our representation of the president,” said Jay Sekulow, another member of Trump’s personal legal team who confirmed the hiring on Monday.
The addition of diGenova doesn’t immediately change the legal hierarchy surrounding the president: John Dowd remains the top personal lawyer and is spearheading negotiations with special counsel Robert Mueller on a potential interview with Trump. Sekulow has a key role doing public communications and legal research on key constitutional questions at the center of Mueller’s obstruction of justice investigation into the president. Ty Cobb is still the White House lawyer managing the president’s official response to the Russia probe.
With diGenova, a veteran of Washington scandals, Trump adds another outspoken critic of the Russia probe who is likely to embolden a president who has recently started swinging even more aggressively in public against Mueller and his team of prosecutors. Trump this past weekend for the first time mentioned Mueller by name in a Twitter post critical of the investigation, and he returned to the issue again Monday, writing, “A total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest!”
Dowd on Saturday issued his own statement – first on behalf of the president’s legal team, then backtracking to say it was just from him – slamming the Mueller probe and urging deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein to shut it down.
Mueller’s probe has long been a source of agitation from diGenova. He’s argued Mueller has too many personal conflicts to run the investigation. Appearing on Fox News in January, he said the whole investigation had dubious beginnings.
“There was a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and, if she didn’t win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime,” he said, adding, “Make no mistake about it: A group of F.B.I. and D.O.J. people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime.”
DiGenova has also been a public critic of former FBI Director James Comey, frequently calling him a "dirty cop" and suggesting in a January radio interview with WMAL that Comey "is ultimately going to be charged with a crime."
In the same interview, diGenova also asserted that the first judge presiding over former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn's guilty plea was "removed from the case" rather than recused. But no information has emerged to support that contention.
DiGenova did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday. The New York Times first reported diGenova was joining the Trump legal team.
DiGenova, a former Reagan-era U.S. attorney, was appointed to serve as an independent counsel to investigate whether aides to President George H.W. Bush violated federal law by searching Bill Clinton’s passport files during the 1992 presidential campaign. No indictments were filed in that case. In the 1980s, DiGenova represented a figure in a Reagan HUD scandal who was accused of working inappropriately with GOP lobbyist Paul Manafort.
DiGenova and his wife, Victoria Toensing, were already involved in the Russia case.
They jointly represented Mark Corallo, the former Trump legal team spokesman who was interviewed last month in the Mueller probe. Toensing also has represented Sam Clovis, a Trump 2016 campaign official who supervised foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty in October for lying to the FBI.
Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.