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Giuliani says he is joining Trump’s legal team to ‘negotiate an end’ to Mueller probe

WASHINGTON — Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani and two other former federal prosecutors joined President Trump’s legal team Thursday following weeks of turbulence and struggles to find attorneys who would agree to represent the president in the ongoing federal probe into Russian election interference.

The reshuffling comes at a particularly tense juncture for Trump, who aides said is increasingly frustrated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller III’s investigation and with the senior officials at the Justice Department.

The entry of Giuliani, an experienced attorney with a combative reputation, immediately raises questions about how Trump will engage with Mueller and the leadership at Justice. Some Trump advisers are concerned that the president could use his executive authority to close or diminish the special counsel probe, which has spawned a parallel investigation in New York targeting his personal attorney.

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‘‘I'm doing it because I hope we can negotiate an end to this for the good of the country and because I have high regard for the president and for Bob Mueller,’’ Giuliani said in an interview Thursday.

Trump said in a statement that Giuliani ‘‘wants to get this matter quickly resolved.’’

In another development Thursday evening, newly released memos maintained by former FBI director James Comey show that Trump had serious concerns about the judgment of his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

The 15 pages of documents, obtained by the Associated Press Thursday, contain new details about a series of interactions that Comey had with Trump in the weeks before his May 2017 firing. Those encounters include a White House dinner at which Comey says Trump asked him for his loyalty, and a meeting the following month in which he says the president asked him to end an investigation into Flynn.

According to one memo, Trump complained about Flynn at a private January 2017 dinner with Comey, saying ‘‘the guy has serious judgment issues.’’ He then blamed Flynn for a delay in returning the congratulatory call of an international leader.

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‘‘I did not comment at any point during this topic and there was no mention or acknowledgment of any FBI interest in or contact with General Flynn,’’ Comey wrote.

Flynn was fired a month later after White House officials said he had misled about his Russian contacts during the transition period. In a separate memo, Comey says Trump cleared the Oval Office of other officials, encouraged him to let the investigation into Flynn go, and called him a good guy.

Trump also told Comey that Russian President Vladimir Putin told him that Russia had ‘‘some of the most beautiful hookers in the world’’ even as he adamantly, and repeatedly, distanced himself from a salacious allegation involving prostitutes in Moscow, the documents state.

The memos were provided to Congress earlier Thursday.

In recent days, the president has been regularly venting and speculating to aides about his legal status and the expected timeline for the Russia investigation, according to associates briefed on the discussions.

Trump also loudly and repeatedly complained to several advisers earlier this week that Comey, former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, and former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, among others, should be charged with crimes for misdeeds alleged by Republicans, the associates said.

Although White House officials said Thursday that Trump has not called Justice Department officials or taken any formal action, the persistent grousing has made some advisers anxious, according to two people close to the president. A publicity tour by Comey to promote his book critical of Trump, ‘‘A Higher Loyalty,’’ has attracted particular attention from the president, who has disparaged Comey publicly and privately.

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Trump also complained this week about Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, saying the judge had proved too liberal in recent cases, according to administration officials who heard about the complaints. Associates said he was incensed that Gorsuch had voted against the administration on an immigration case and said it renewed his doubts that Gorsuch would be a reliable conservative. One adviser played down the comments as unhappiness with Gorsuch’s decision rather than with Gorsuch broadly.

Giuliani, 73, brings a familiarity with several of the legal fronts that Trump is navigating. He is a former associate attorney general and a former US attorney for the Southern District of New York, which is the office overseeing an investigation of Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

Trump counsel Jay Sekulow said Thursday that former federal prosecutors Jane Serene Raskin and Marty Raskin, a couple who manage a Florida-based law firm, have also agreed to join the legal team.

Giuliani is certain to come under intense scrutiny for his role.

His own preelection activities two years ago have been the subject of criticism from Democrats, especially television interviews in which he suggested he had sources providing him inside information about the FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s private e-mail server.

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A Justice Department Inspector General report on the department’s handling of the Clinton investigations is expected to be released in coming weeks and will probably include results of leak investigations regarding the Clinton probe.

Numerous other challenges face the attorneys who will work alongside Sekulow and counsel Ty Cobb — who have functioned as Trump’s legal nucleus for weeks following the resignation of John Dowd, a legal veteran and the team’s former leader.

‘‘The big question is, how’s he going to play with everybody else?’’ said a lawyer involved with the investigation who was not authorized to speak publicly. ‘‘Will he try to walk . . . back from the brink and answer the big question, which is whether the president will sit for an interview? And will Trump listen to him?’’

Giuliani declined to say whether Trump has made a final decision on whether to sit for an interview with federal investigators. Trump has been mulling it for weeks, moving away from the idea after the home, offices, and hotel room of Cohen were raided this month.

Giuliani also declined to discuss whether Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has been under fire from conservatives and oversees the Russia probe, could be fired by the president in the coming weeks.

News of Giuliani’s hiring came as Bloomberg reported that Rosenstein told Trump last week that he isn’t a target of any part of Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election or the Cohen probe, according to several people familiar with the matter.

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Rosenstein, according to Bloomberg, offered the assurance during a meeting with Trump at the White House last Thursday, the people said.


Material from Bloomberg News is included in this report.