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Trump adds to legal team after attacks on Mueller

President TrumpDonald TrumpNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 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 (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump 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.

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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 ComeyJohn Durham's endgame: Don't expect criminal charges Trump DOJ officials sought to block search of Giuliani records: report Tina Fey, Amy Poehler to host Golden Globes from separate coasts amid pandemic 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 ClintonMedia circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Senate ref axes minimum wage, House votes today on relief bill Democratic strategists start women-run media consulting firm 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 RosensteinRosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' Comey argues Trump shouldn't be prosecuted after leaving Oval Office Trump turns his ire toward Cabinet members MORE, who is overseeing the special counsel because Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsManchin flexes muscle in 50-50 Senate Udalls: Haaland criticism motivated 'by something other than her record' Ocasio-Cortez targets Manchin over Haaland confirmation 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 McCabeJohn Durham's endgame: Don't expect criminal charges Carter Page sues over surveillance related to Russia probe McCabe defends investigation of Trump before Senate committee: We had 'many reasons' 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 KushnerBiden to speak with Saudi king 'soon' as pressure builds for Khashoggi report Biden to speak with Saudi king ahead of Khashoggi report: report Former Trump officials eye bids for political office 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 ObamaArtist behind golden Trump statue at CPAC says he made it in Mexico Obama opens up about singing 'Amazing Grace' after Charleston shooting: 'I've used up all my words' Exclusive: How Obama went to bat for Warren 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 CornynPolitics, not racism or sexism, explain opposition to Biden Cabinet nominees Biden pledges support for Texas amid recovery from winter storm Partisan headwinds threaten Capitol riot commission 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.