By Karen Freifeld
(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump will not hire two lawyers to his legal team handling the special counsel’s Russia probe despite announcing their addition last week, Trump’s personal lawyer said on Sunday.
“The president is disappointed that conflicts prevent Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing from joining the president’s special counsel legal team,” Jay Sekulow said in a statement. “However, those conflicts do not prevent them from assisting the president in other legal matters. The president looks forward to working with them.’
DiGenova and Toensing had been expected to help fill a growing void on Trump’s legal team handling Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump’s lead lawyer in the special counsel investigation, John Dowd, resigned Thursday.
The personnel movements come as Trump’s legal team has been negotiating the terms of a possible interview with the president by Mueller’s investigators.
Trump has denounced the investigation as a “witch hunt.” Russia denies meddling in the election.
“We thank the president for his confidence in us and we look forward to working with him,” on other matters, Toensing said in a statement on behalf of both her and diGenova. The married pair work together at their namesake law firm, diGenova & Toensing.
Toensing declined to comment on why the retainer on Russia fell through. Another source familiar with the situation said it was due to the “collective nature of the conflicts.”
DiGenova was at the White House on Thursday, according to a person familiar with the meeting.
Trump has had trouble finding outside lawyers to assist him in the Russia probe.
Major firms such as Williams & Connolly and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher turned him down in the last year, citing conflicts, people familiar with the matter have told Reuters.
Trump representatives have reached out to some of those firms again more recently, sources said.
(Reporting by Karen Freifeld in New York; Writing by Dustin Volz; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)