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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Trump's character assassination squad convenes at the White House

by digby

I wrote about Trump's new hit man for Salon this morning:

Twenty years ago last month, Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz, then of the Washington Post, published a flattering profile called "The Power Couple at Scandal's Vortex" about a couple of DC lawyers who suddenly seemed to be everywhere, making the case against Bill Clinton. The two former prosecutors and conservative activists were Joe DiGenova and Victoria Toensing and they were not only ubiquitous on television, they had their hands in every scandal and investigation in DC, making them, as Kurtz put it, "players, which gives them access to juicy information, which gets them on television, which generates legal business."

Then, as now, there were dozens of lawyers on cable news acting as pundits and analysts arguing over the details of the latest scandal news.  But DiGenova and Toensing were unique in that they weren't just giving opinions, they were often representing clients and even worked on retainer for the one of the House investigations. And from time to time they became personally involved in the scandal themselves as when Toensing claimed that she was contacted by a Secret Service agent with a story to tell about Clinton and Lewinsky and DiGenova going on TV and insisting that the White House was "digging up dirt" on him and his wife. All of these cross connections between media, clients and various investigations often gave the two of them information which they used to promote their legal business and advance their cause which was to help Republicans take down Bill Clinton by any means necessary. They are both very savvy television performers and ruthless political operatives.

I hadn't heard much about them in the ensuing 20 years beyond some tepid defenses of convicted former Bush official Scooter Libby, but it stands to reason that they would be back in business now that Washington is engulfed in scandal again. And it makes perfect sense that Donald Trump would hire a lawyer with a conspiratorial bent and a strong media presence to defend him for when he decided to go to the mattresses against the Mueller investigation.
Toensing has been all over the scandal from the beginning representing former Trump adviser Sam Clovis, former Trump legal spokesman Mark Corallo (I wrote about him for Salon, here) and a shadowy alleged whistleblower and former FBI informant  named William Campbell who claimed he had information that Clinton had sold uranium to Russia as Secretary of State in exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation. The Uranium One story played big on Fox News for a while but it didn't catch on since Campbell didn't have any proof and the FBI said he had been an unreliable informant.

Of course that could just have been part of the Big FBI Conspiracy DiGenova has been pushing for several months now and which seems to gotten legs on Fox News. Before the election, DiGenova went on Laura Ingraham's radio show and claimed that James Comey threw the case against Clinton:
“Comey’s a dirty cop. And if there’s one thing a prosecutor hates worse than a criminal, it’s a dirty cop … He threw this case. He did it for political reasons. He lied publicly about the quality of the case. He lied publicly about the law. He lied publicly about the ability to get documents when he could have used the grand jury and he didn’t.”
This was a huge deal in the right wing fever swamps during the election and DiGenova undoubtedly knew the Clinton scandal machine was oiled up and he was just testing the gears in anticipation of four years of steady work. Long before Comey and Trump had their confrontation, the right was readying the attack on Comey and the FBI. DiGenova laid out the Bizarro World case:
[Comey] has destroyed his credibility. He has done horrific damage to the FBI as an institution...If this were a Republican, the press would be going crazy about obstruction of injustice...[Clinton] will preside over the most corrupt administration since the Teapot Dome scandal. This is about the future of the country.
DiGenova  promised legal representation to any FBI agent who wanted to come forward and testify against James Comey.  As far as we know there were no takers.

All that was before the election. Since then the conspiracy, out of necessity, has gotten more sensational and convoluted. He now claims that  "a group of FBI and DOJ people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime...they were going to exonerate Hillary and they were going to frame Donald Trump."

So, the original sin in all this was letting Crooked Hillary off the hook for her heinous email crimes. Then apparently, the leaders of the global intelligence community joined with the nefarious Hillary lovers at the FBI to wreak their vengeance on the man who took down their chosen leader.  As DiGenova put it, "Comey sold his soul to the devil."

According to reports in the New York Times and the Washington Post, DiGenova is expected to do what he does best: appear on television and give colorful quotes to the press. But he is also a clever lawyer and former prosecutor with right wing contacts throughout the government. His wife and law partner Toensing has access to information about the investigation as the attorney for Clovis and Corallo. He will be a valuable addition to the team as they go about the ongoing smear campaign against their own government.

According to press reports this week, Mueller's team is particularly interested in Trump's behavior around the Comey and Flynn firings which indicates he's definitely looking at obstruction of justice by the president in the White House. If DiGenova is telling his new client that the president can't be indicted while in office he's undoubtedly glad that Trump doesn't use a computer or he might come across DiGenova's legal opinion on the matter from 20 years ago:
Nobody should underestimate the upheaval that a prosecution of the president would cause. But we went through it once before, in Watergate, and survived. The nation, in fact, could conceivably benefit from the indictment of a president. It would teach the valuable civics lesson that no one is above the law. As an appeals court told Mr. Clinton in the Paula Jones case, the Founders created a presidency, not a monarchy.
When he's right he's right. 

Oy vey: There's more. Ted Olson is possibly being added to the team. Those of you who have been around a while remember that Oldson was in the middle of the Arkansas Project that went after Clinton in the 1990s.

They're putting the band back together to protect Trump. These guys were ultimately unsuccessful back in the day and they' are 20 years older now. If the president of the United States is reduced to calling on these guys he's in big trouble.

Update II: Oh sorry Trumpie. Looks like the band will be missing a lead guitar player...