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Trump adds to legal team amid talks of a shake-up

Joe diGenova, the new hire, has previously described the Russia investigation as a “brazen plot” to “frame” Trump for a false crime.

world Updated: Mar 20, 2018 23:56 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Washington
US President Donald Trump.
US President Donald Trump.(AP)

US President Donald Trump on Monday hired a former public prosecutor amid mounting speculation about a larger shake-up of his legal team as he seeks to get more aggressive with the Russia meddling probe.

Joe diGenova, the new hire, is a Washington lawyer and a TV commentator who has described the Russia investigation as a “brazen plot” to exonerate Hillary Clinton in the email use case and “frame” Trump for a false crime.

The addition of diGenova comes as a time when Trump’s legal team is weighing whether or not to make him available to special counsel Robert Mueller for a personal interview, a move which is fraught with dangers given Trump’s tendency to make false claims.

The White House recently turned over written documents to Mueller’s office, The Washington Post reported, containing summaries of key moments in the investigation with the purpose of narrowing the scope of the interview if and when it took place.

Trump himself is keen to do the interview, but his team is not, according to reports.

Trump is also considering further changes in the team as he prepares to get more aggressive with the probe, according to multiple news reports. He attacked Mueller for the first time on Saturday, tweeting: “The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime … WITCH HUNT!”

Earlier that day, Trump’s lead lawyer John Dowd, who has advocated an aggressive approach towards the Mueller team, had called for shutting down the probe, describing it as an “alleged Russia collusion investigation manufactured by … (former FBI director) James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt dossier”.

But reports say Dowd has considered quitting as he is frustrated by an unpredictable client he can’t control.

Trump is reported to have been considering firing Ty Cobb — a member of his legal team who has favoured full and complete cooperation with the Russia probe.

The key moments Mueller’s office is looking at include the circumstances surrounding the firing of Comey as a possible attempt at obstructing justice, which Trump has vigorously denied. Comey, who has been interviewed by Mueller’s team, has said he has kept contemporaneous notes of his conversations with Trump, as has his erstwhile deputy Andrew McCabe, who was fired last week.

On Sunday, Trump attacked them in a tweet. “Spent very little time with Andrew McCabe, but he never took notes when he was with me. I don’t believe he made memos except to help his own agenda, probably at a later date. Same with lying James Comey. Can we call them Fake Memos?”

Trump’s legal issues have been complicated further by allegations his long-time attorney Micheal Cohen paid hush-money to porn star Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about her affair with Trump several years ago.