Who Is Joe DiGenova? Trump’s New Lawyer Has Pushed Russia Conspiracy Theories
The Trump legal team is growing as the president gets more and more agitated with the direction of Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Now, the newest member of the team is a former U.S. attorney that has spread conspiracy theories about the FBI and Justice Department. Joe diGenova is Trump's new lawyer, and he will be providing counsel as the investigations continue and Trump's attacks on Mueller increase.
Interestingly, diGenova himself once served as a special counsel. In the 1990s, he looked into fraud, government waste, and abuse charges in various cases. In one, he investigated the George H.W. Bush administration to see if they had acted improperly in searching for information about Bill Clinton.
Originally appointed by Republicans as a U.S. attorney, diGenova's findings were that the entire investigation into the Bush administration was unnecessary. "Today," Mr. diGenova said in 1995, "a Kafkaesque journey for a group of innocent Americans comes to an end ... They did things that were stupid, dumb and partisan, but those things are not a crime."
After that diGenova went on to denounce the need for the Watergate-era law that provided for special counsels. In 1998, he said the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 didn't need to be renewed, The New York Times reported. The next year, Congress let the law expire.
All of this makes the diGenova the perfect person to attack the Mueller investigation or to give Trump cover on cable news. That's something that he was doing even before being on the pay roll.
Back in January, diGenova spoke with Fox News's Tucker Carlson and painted the Russia investigation as one big conspiracy theory. "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," diGenova told Carlson.
He made reference to text messages that were released at the time between two FBI officials. There was a big debate at the time about the fairness of various investigations, but further investigation showed it to be fake news.
That didn't stop diGenova. He claimed it was all an attack on Trump. "Everything we have seen from these texts, and from all the facts developing, shows that the FBI and senior DOJ officials conspired to violate the law, and deny Donald Trump his civil rights," diGenova told Carlson.
He even suggested that the talk of obstruction of justice should be reserved for law enforcement, and not the president. "Make no mistake about it, a group of FBI and DOJ people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime," diGenova continued.
At the time, diGenova was not on Trump's payroll, but his wife and legal partner, Victoria Toensing, had already represented several people from the Trump campaign including Sam Clovis, the former Trump campaign co-chairman, and Erik Prince, an informal adviser and founder of war contractor Blackwater. Toensing has also tried to actively discredit Mueller by using old allegations surrounding Uranium One.
As for diGenova's thoughts on special counsels, he thought they brought too much "targeted attention" to investigations. "All of the usual governors, both legal and practical, are absent, because of the special nature of the statute," diGenova said in 1998. He argued it forced prosecutors to investigate to an "unnatural degree." And that was under the old, stricter law.
Interestingly, though, his one other comment on special counsels would not bode well for the president, the man he is now working for. In 1998, diGenova said, "There's no way that a sitting president can possibly prevent his own investigation by firing anybody, because the political process will not permit it."
Now he's working for someone who reportedly wants to try and make it work.