Politics

Trump Adds Hard-Nosed Mueller Critic to Legal Team, Makes Other Changes

President taps Reagan-era federal prosecutor diGenova for personal staff; and former GM, Microsoft business exec for deputy chief of staff

President Donald Trump made two staff moves on Monday — one official and one involving his personal legal team, according to multiple news reports.

Trump tapped outspoken former federal prosecutor Joseph diGenova to serve on his personal legal team as he navigates the Russia investigation led by independent counsel Robert Mueller. DiGenova drew immediate and intense fire from Democrats, who characterize him as a conspiracy theorist who is outside the mainstream.

“He [Trump] seems to be buying into these conspiracy theories on the idea that all of this has been set up just to go get him,” Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “And so, to the extent that he is hiring folks who have sort of been on the fringe, it says a lot about his state of mind, that it’s really in an unhealthy place.”

Critics pointed to comments that diGenova (pictured above right) made in January during an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson. DiGenova discussed revelations that senior FBI counterintelligence supervisor Peter Strzok and bureau lawyer Lisa Page expressed hostility toward Trump at the same time they were involved in the investigation into Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified emails as secretary of state.

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Strzok’s text messages “suggest, as we have said from the beginning, that 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 at the time.

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Reached by LifeZette, diGenova declined to comment. But on “The Laura Ingraham Show” earlier Monday before his hiring, diGenova said there was no valid reason for the Mueller probe to continue.

“Whatever purpose it had in the beginning, that purpose has now been served, and it is time for this matter to end,” he said.

Some reports have indicated that Mueller’s team may be close to an agreement to interview the president as part of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign.

The hiring of diGenova, who served as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia under Ronald Reagan, calls that into question. He has cautioned Trump against agreeing to an interview, which he added could be a perjury trap.

“Under no circumstances should the president agree to be interviewed by Mr. Mueller. First of all, there’s no evidence that a crime was committed,” diGenova told Ingraham. “That’s number one. There was no collusion with the Russians, even though collusion is not a crime.”

In the other move Monday, Chris Liddell, a former executive at Microsoft and General Motors who has been Trump’s director of strategic initiatives, will become White House chief of staff John Kelly’s deputy, Politico reported.

Related: Mueller Probe Increasingly Looking Empty, Top Legal Experts Say

“Chris is widely respected across the administration and is highly qualified to oversee and coordinate our policy process,” Kelly said, according to Politico. “We look forward to having him in this new role.”

Liddell (pictured above left) has worked for the Trump administration since the president took the oath of office, working with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner in the Office of American Innovation, which has focused on modernizing the federal government’s information technology system.

“He has extensive experience managing large organizations and has already overseen a number of interagency processes in the White House,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “In his new role, Chris will manage the policy process as we continue to enact the president’s agenda.”

PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

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