Joseph E. diGenova during a television interview in March 2016. Credit C-Span
MANCHESTER, N.H. — President Trump hired the longtime Washington lawyer Joseph E. diGenova on Monday, adding an aggressive voice to his legal team who has pushed the theory on television that the F.B.I. and Justice Department framed Mr. Trump.
Mr. diGenova, a former United States attorney, is not expected to take a lead role. But he will serve as an outspoken player for the president as Mr. Trump has increased his attacks on the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. Trump broke over the weekend from the longstanding advice of some of his lawyers that he refrain from directly criticizing Mr. Mueller, a sign of his growing unease with the investigation.
“Former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia Joe DiGenova will be joining our legal team later this week,” said Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s personal lawyers. “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.”
Mr. diGenova has endorsed the notion that a secretive group of F.B.I. agents concocted the Russia investigation as a way to keep Mr. Trump from becoming president. “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 on Fox News in January. He added, “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.”
Little evidence has emerged to support that theory.
Mr. Trump’s legal team has been in tumult in recent weeks. On Saturday, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, called on the Justice Department to end the special counsel investigation. Mr. Dowd said at the time that he was speaking for the president but later backtracked. According to two people briefed on the matter, he was in fact acting at the president’s urging to call for an end to the inquiry.
Earlier this month, Mr. Trump did not tell his lawyers that he was in discussions with another Washington lawyer, Emmet T. Flood, about representing him. Mr. Flood represented former President Bill Clinton during his impeachment proceedings.
Mr. diGenova did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Mr. diGenova is law partners with his wife, Victoria Toensing. Ms. Toensing has also represented Sam Clovis, the former Trump campaign co-chairman, and Erik Prince, the founder of the security contractor Blackwater and an informal adviser to Mr. Trump. Mr. Prince attended a meeting in January 2017 with a Russian investor in the Seychelles that the special counsel is investigating.
Ms. Toensing also represents Mark Corallo, the former spokesman for the Trump legal team who has accused one of the president’s advisers of potentially planning to obstruct justice with a statement related to a 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer who supposedly had damaging information Hillary Clinton.
Mr. diGenova has worked in Washington legal circles for decades. He is a former Republican-appointed United States attorney for the District of Columbia. And he has served as an independent counsel in government waste, fraud and abuse investigations, notably a three-year criminal inquiry into whether officials in the George H.W. Bush administration broke any laws in their search for damaging information about then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton.
In 1995, Mr. diGenova declared the investigation he led was “unnecessary.” And, he said, “a Kafkaesque journey for a group of innocent Americans comes to an end.”808Comments
Mr. diGenova was one of several former independent counsels who, in the late 1990s, argued that the role of the independent counsel — as defined in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal — ought to be narrowed.
Drawing on his own experience, Mr. diGenova said in 1998 that the law, the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, should not be renewed. He argued that once the independent counsel law was invoked, the prosecutors were forced into bringing “an unnatural degree of targeted attention” to the case. In 1999, the United States Congress let the independent counsel portions of the law expire.
Maggie Haberman reported from Manchester, N.H., and Michael S. Schmidt from Washington. Matt Apuzzo and Eileen Sullivan contributed reporting from Washington.