President Trump in Manchester, N.H., on March 19. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
Media critic

Joseph E. diGenova, a former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, told Fox News host Tucker Carlson during a December 2017 appearance: “Right now, Tucker, what you have now unfolding inside the FBI in the Department of Justice under [President Barack] Obama is a brazen plot to do two things, to exonerate Hillary Clinton because of an animus toward Donald Trump and then, if she lost, to frame the incoming president for either a criminal act or impeachment.” DiGenova made a name for himself by pursuing D.C. city officials during the Marion S. Barry Jr. administration.

A month or so later, diGenova turned in another appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” The topic? A so-called “secret society” that had popped up in some texts traded between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page — whose meetings, a GOP lawmaker conceded, were quite possibly a joke. In the Carlson-diGenova world, however, they were game-face serious:

Carlson: So, on “Special Report,” a little over an hour ago, [Republican] Ron Johnson, the [Wisconsin] senator who is head of the Homeland Security Committee, suggested that the secret society referenced in these texts may have been an actual thing and may have met off-site away from the FBI secretly. We don’t know more than that. What does this suggest to you?

DiGenova: It suggests, 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. Everything that 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 to deny Donald Trump his civil rights.

Carlson: What would be the motive for that?

DiGenova: The motive would be that they didn’t like Donald Trump. They didn’t think he was fit to be president. And they were going to do everything within their power to exonerate Hillary Clinton; and if she lost, to frame Donald Trump with a false crime because they didn’t think he should be president.

More and more, diGenova has become a go-to guy for the prime-time pro-Trump opinionators on Fox News, with a series of pundit appearances that now look like an audition: As the New York Times reported, Trump has “decided” to hire diGenova as a lawyer on his team. The idea, according to the Times, is to instill some legal aggressiveness in the fight against the special counsel’s work.

Which is to say, the idea is to let diGenova do precisely as he’s been doing on Fox News — spin crazy theories, that is, while facing almost no opposition. For instance, after diGenova broached the alleged conspiracy against Trump in his Dec. 15 appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” the host responded, in part: “The Trump administration oversees the Department of Justice now. What would it take to call some of these people to account for their behavior?”

After the Jan. 23 claim about the scheme to deny Trump his “civil rights,” Carlson didn’t say, “Please present even one bit of evidence to support that theory.” He moved on to another consideration: “What would be the motive for that?”

Here’s how that interview ended:

Carlson: And last question, since you’ve been here for a long time and worked in this world for a long time, are we right to have real questions about the integrity of our justice system watching this?

DiGenova: Regrettably, we’re at a point now where the FBI has lost almost all of its credibility and, regrettably, its integrity as a result of the conduct of James Comey, who remains America’s most dirty cop.

Carlson: Terrifying. Joe diGenova, thank you very much for that.

Fox News host Sean Hannity had access to the diGenova-conspiracy echo chamber as well. Here’s an exchange from Feb. 7 edition of “Hannity”:

DiGenova: They were going to exonerate Hillary, and they were going to frame Donald Trump. It is inescapable, no matter what all these people are saying at the New York Times and The Washington Post with their silly editorials. They are missing one of the great corruption stories of American law enforcement, and sad to say it involves the senior levels of the FBI and it is a national disgrace.

Hannity: One of, or the biggest?

DiGenova: I would consider this the largest law enforcement scandal in history for this reason. The activities of [top law enforcement officials] were designed to subvert the Constitution and a national election, the most serious offense under our Constitution.

There’s cause for nostalgia in light of these developments. For years and years, Fox News opinionators have been inviting people like diGenova to pollute the airwaves with their bunk. And most of the time, those folks would gain fame in certain circles while perhaps limiting their prospects outside of those certain circles. They’d do their segments on Fox News, write an op-ed here or there, and watch as facts overtook their odd formulations.

Now they’re blazing a trail to the White House.

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