Not even a week has passed since it was announced that Fox News firebrand Joseph diGenova was joining President Trump’s special counsel legal team to help address the FBI probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Fast forward five days and diGenova and his lawyer wife, Victoria Toensing, are out before they even got in.
“The President is disappointed that conflicts prevent Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing from joining the President’s Special Counsel legal team,” Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow said in a statement Sunday. “However, those conflicts do not prevent them from assisting the President in other legal matters The President looks forward to working with them.”
The law firm diGenova runs with Toensing also represents two other people caught up in the Mueller investigation, Mark Corallo and Sam Clovis, which would present a conflict of interest, reports NPR’s Tamara Keith.
DiGenova, a former U.S. attorney, has been a staunch Trump defender, using his Fox News appearances to slam the Russia investigation.
In January, he said the probe amounted “a brazen plot … to frame Donald Trump with a false crime, because they didn’t think he should be president.”
The New York Times reports that Trump himself may have felt diGenova and Toensing were not the right fit, after having met with them recently: “According to two people told of details about the meeting, the president did not believe he had personal chemistry with Mr. diGenova and Ms. Toensing.”
Earlier in the week, news reports emerged that Trump’s legal team had approached well-respected Republican lawyer Ted Olson about getting him on board but was turned down. His firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher reportedly felt there were too many client conflicts related to the Russia probe.
Ted Boutros, a partner in the firm, confirmed Tuesday that Olson would not be representing Trump.
On Sunday, Trump addressed the tumult, defending the desirability of representing him.
“Many lawyers and top law firms want to represent me in the Russia case…don’t believe the Fake News narrative that it is hard to find a lawyer who wants to take this on. Fame & fortune will NEVER be turned down by a lawyer, though some are conflicted,” he tweeted.
He added, “I am very happy with my existing team.”
But that team is dwindling.
On Thursday, John Dowd, the lawyer who had been heading Trump’s outside team addressing the Russia probe resigned.
A source told NPR’s Tamara Keith that Dowd had expressed concern about diGenova’s hiring because of his firm’s representation of Clovis and Corallo.
Tamara also reports, “a source familiar with Dowd’s thinking says he was tired and frustrated, in a draining job with not enough resources and with a client who was not taking his advice. When reached by phone all Dowd would say is, ‘I love the president and wish him well.'”
Dowd’s resignation came three days after Trump launched a Twitter attack against Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the Russia investigation.
While Trump has long slammed the probe as a “witch hunt,” the tweet was the first time he named Mueller in his criticism.