Trump adds to legal team after attacks on Mueller

President TrumpDonald John TrumpHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate MORE is adding prominent white-collar attorney Joseph diGenova to his personal legal team, the latest sign of an increasingly aggressive stance toward special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s investigation.

The White House insists that there are no plans to fire Mueller. But Trump’s own tweets and his decision to hire diGenova — a former U.S. attorney who has attacked the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) in conservative media outlets — are the latest signs that the president is moving to discredit Mueller’s probe.

ADVERTISEMENT

The confrontational posture comes as Mueller’s investigation has reportedly extended to Trump’s personal business empire, and as the White House and the special counsel negotiate the parameters of a potential interview.

“It shows they’re taking this very seriously and recognize that it’s not going away any time soon, and that the stakes are just climbing higher,” said former U.S. Attorney John Wood.

DiGenova has been a fixture in the Washington, D.C., legal community for years. He is married to Victoria Toensing, who represents an informant at the center of the Uranium One investigation being conducted by Republicans in Congress.

Like Trump, diGenova has a harsh assessment of former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyTrump vows to get rid of 'stench' at DOJ, FBI House Judiciary on NY Times article: I intend to subpoena 'McCabe Memos' Hillicon Valley: NYT says Rosenstein wanted to wear wire on Trump | Twitter bug shared some private messages | Vendor put remote-access software on voting machines | Paypal cuts ties with Infowars | Google warned senators about foreign hacks MORE. DiGenova has described Comey as “the dirtiest cop in America” and accused him of destroying the FBI’s reputation with his “bizarre personal behavior.”

The New York Times first reported on diGenova’s hiring, and in that story highlighted his past claim that the Justice Department had framed Trump by “creating a false crime” of collusion. One prominent legal figure described diGenova to The Hill as “a wild card.”

DiGenova joins a team of Trump’s personal lawyers who have freely attacked the special counsel, breaking from the more reserved stance the president’s White House legal team has taken up to now.

Trump attorney Jay Sekulow is a frequent guest on Fox News’s “Hannity,” where he has railed against alleged corruption at the FBI and DOJ and demanded a second special counsel investigate what he describes as irregularities in the separate investigations into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate Heller embraces Trump in risky attempt to survive in November Live coverage: Cruz, O'Rourke clash in Texas debate MORE and Trump.

On his Monday radio show, Sekulow detailed the chain of events he said wrongly led to the special counsel investigation of Trump and called out individuals at the DOJ and FBI by name for alleged anti-Trump bias.

“You have to look at the totality of circumstances here and ask yourself, what is happening?” Sekulow said.

Sekulow’s remarks came one day after another of Trump’s personal attorneys, John Dowd, sent Washington into a frenzy by calling for an end to the special counsel.

Dowd publicly pressured Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Rosenstein: 'I never pursued' trying to record Trump Trump vows to get rid of 'stench' at DOJ, FBI MORE, who is overseeing the special counsel because Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump vows to get rid of 'stench' at DOJ, FBI NY Times, McCabe give Trump perfect cover to fire Rosenstein, Sessions House Judiciary on NY Times article: I intend to subpoena 'McCabe Memos' MORE recused himself, to “bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation” that he said had been “manufactured” by Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeRosenstein: 'I never pursued' trying to record Trump NY Times, McCabe give Trump perfect cover to fire Rosenstein, Sessions House Judiciary on NY Times article: I intend to subpoena 'McCabe Memos' MORE, whom Sessions fired on Friday night.

Dowd said the entire special counsel investigation was “based upon a fraudulent and corrupt dossier” compiled by British spy Christopher Steele and paid for in part by Democrats, including the Clinton campaign.

That statement preceded a round of blistering tweets from the president, in which Trump vented his frustration with Mueller and singled him out for criticism by name for the first time.

Trump accused Mueller of stocking his team with Democrats and said the special counsel was a “witch hunt” that was rife with “massive conflicts of interest.”

The White House quickly sought to throw cold water on the notion that Mueller’s firing was immanent.

“There are no conversations or discussions about removing Mr. Mueller,” deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said Monday.

Ty Cobb, who leads the president’s White House legal team, issued a similar statement.

“The President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller,” Cobb said in a statement.

The White House position has long been that it is cooperating with Mueller in the hopes that he would conduct a swift investigation that clears the president of wrongdoing.

Cobb had been hopeful that the special counsel would wrap by the end of 2017 or in early 2018.

The White House legal team believes it has finished providing the thousands of internal documents the special counsel requested. Cobb’s team has been in a holding pattern, even as media reports indicate that Mueller’s probe has expanded to include everything from the Trump Organization to Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerMueller investigating Russian payments made by Trump Tower meeting organizers: report The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil Manafort’s plea deal — the clear winners and losers MORE’s business dealings to a private meeting with a Russian official at an exclusive island resort in the Indian Ocean.

Still, Robert Ray, the former independent counsel for the Whitewater investigation during the Clinton administration, says that as long as Cobb is in charge of the White House legal team, any notion that there has been a change in legal strategy is overblown.

“Ty Cobb has been the constant fixture here,” Ray said. “There’s no indication anything has changed until he’s no longer in the loop. There is still a sense that they’re operating under the principle that the White House will cooperate and hand over the relevant witnesses and documents to try to bring this to a close. There will always be a political atmospherics and outside lawyers joining or leaving, but there haven’t been any fundamental changes.”

Mueller still has the confidence of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, with several Republicans warning Trump against firing him on Monday.

Mueller, a Republican, was confirmed in a 98-0 vote to lead the FBI in 2001 under George W. Bush and by a 100-0 vote when Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump questions Kavanaugh accuser's account | Accuser may testify Thursday | Midterm blame game begins Dems look to Gillum, Abrams for pathway to victory in tough states Ford taps Obama, Clinton alum to navigate Senate hearing MORE asked him to continue in the role in 2011.

“I think there would be a number of unintended consequences [if Trump were to fire Mueller] and I’m not going to speculate what those are,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynKey GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Trump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle GOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford MORE (R-Texas).

Even Fox News host Sean Hannity, who is friends with Trump and pillories Mueller every night on his top-rated cable show, sought to dampen speculation that the special counsel would be fired.

Hannity made a rare appearance on the morning show “Fox & Friends,” a program that the president is known to watch, and offered a word of caution about Mueller.

“If I was advising the president, I’d say, let this investigation go forward. We’re probably coming to the end of it, if I had to render a guess, and it would be in his best interest
probably not to comment,” Hannity said.

“All the president was saying was, this [special counsel investigation] should never have been. This never should have happened,” Hannity continued. “I would argue we’re
getting to the end of the process. There’s not going to be any firing of Mueller.”

The president saw the segment and tweeted out praise for Hannity shortly after it was over.