Ex-acting solicitor general details how Trump's dwindling legal team shows 'Mueller is formally thinking of him as a target’
Robert Mueller in the Oval Office on July 20, 2012. (Photo by Pete Souza.)

Former Acting Solicitor General of the United States and top Department of Justice official Neal Katyal may have deciphered why former Fox News pundit Joe diGenova and his wife, Victoria Toensing, were not able to join President Donald Trump's legal defense team.

In a new Vanity Fair interview, Neal Katyal noted that the same conflict-of-interests that existed when the hiring was announced remained five days later, when the lawyers listed them as reasons they would not be joining the team after all.

“What happened between last week, when DiGenova and Toensing were announced as joining the team, and yesterday?” Katyal wondered. "Then Dowd resigns Thursday, and yet by Sunday DiGenova and Toensing are gone, leaving the president with only two lawyers.”

Katyal, who has argued more cases before the Supreme Court than any other lawyer from a minority group, wondered if special counsel Robert Mueller intervened.

“Diligent prosecutors, when they see a defendant doing something profoundly dangerous to their self-interest (including hiring lawyers who have conflicts), will raise it with the defendant and suggest they rethink it,” Katyal explained. “I think it very possible that that happened here —- Mueller is a scrupulous prosecutor and may have told Trump he had concerns about Trump’s own rights."

If that is indeed what occurred last week, it would be very revealing as to President Trump's legal position.

"If it did happen, it would strongly suggest that Mueller is formally thinking of Trump as a target of his investigation," Katyal concluded. "A prosecutor would issue such a warning to a target, not to a witness.”