June 19, 2017 22:29 GMT by nytimes.com

A Top Presidential Public Defender Was Also a Twitter Critic

A Top Presidential Public Defender Was Also a Twitter Critic

Mark Corallo, a longtime conservative operative, was highly critical of Mr. Trump on Twitter before he was hired to the president’s legal team.

WASHINGTON — In April, Mark Corallo, the spokesman for President Trump’s personal legal team, used Twitter to suggest — twice — that Vice President Mike Pence, not Mr. Trump, should be the Republican nominee for president in 2020.

In May, he posted several remarks disparaging the influence of Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, in the White House, suggesting they were part of “the swamp” the president had promised to drain.

Later last month, Mr. Corallo lavishly praised Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel leading the investigation into possible collusion between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia to interfere with the 2016 election. The president, by contrast, has described the investigation as a “witch hunt,” being “led by some very bad and conflicted people!”

“Bob is the best,” Mr. Corallo wrote on May 18. “If the facts merit, he’ll recommend charging. More importantly, if there’s nothing there, he won’t.”

Mr. Corallo is a longtime conservative public relations operative who now serves as spokesman for Trump lawyer Marc E. Kasowitz and a growing legal team charged with defending the president in a web of investigations. His posts are a rare instance of a Trump ally publicly venting criticism of a president who prizes loyalty and is known to be averse to dissent.

“Hey Mr. President, where’s all the ‘winning?’” Mr. Corallo wrote last month, appearing to compare Mr. Trump to Bill Clinton, who hailed from Arkansas, and his famous parsing of words. “Or, like the guy from AR, are you going to tell me it depends on the definition of ‘winning?’ ”

Mr. Corallo, who has deep experience in the combat of Washington scandals, including Mr. Clinton’s impeachment, is not an employee of the White House or the Trump administration. It would be simple to dismiss his comments on Twitter as the personal social media musings of a private citizen.

But Mr. Trump, who makes little distinction between his own personal and official utterances, often bristles at mild slights, even in an informal setting. And he is particularly protective of his oldest daughter. The president has lamented privately to friends that he feels bad that his daughter has taken so many slings and arrows because of voter anger over his policies and his statements.

Similar criticism of the president has scotched jobs for other prospective administration officials in the past. Dozens of potential candidates were passed over or eliminated from Mr. Trump’s list for having spoken ill of him during the presidential campaign.

It is unclear whether Mr. Trump or others at the White House were aware of Mr. Corallo’s comments, which is striking given that he is now a public defender for the president. The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, who has taken to referring reporters’ questions about the investigations to Mr. Kasowitz’s team did not respond to an email seeking comment.

In an emailed response to what he called a “New York Times hit piece,” Mr. Corallo defended himself by pointing to his long support for Mr. Trump during the campaign and noting that he once worked with Mr. Mueller.

“I have not been shy about expressing my admiration and support for President Trump. I hold him and his family in the highest esteem both personally and professionally,” Mr. Corallo wrote on Monday, adding, “I have never been shy about expressing my opinions as a private citizen. I am not a ‘yes man,’ and the fact that I may have been critical of the administration on a few occasions is proof of that.”

Mr. Corallo’s most pronounced criticism of the president on Twitter appeared to be between March and early May, the period after the inauguration when Mr. Trump’s self-inflicted wounds became most apparent.

“But is he aware he can’t be re-elected without his base?” Mr. Corallo said in a message on April 14. “The swamp creep is a growing trend — a really bad one.”

On two other occasions, Mr. Corallo commented: “Pence Haley 2020,” an apparent call for Mr. Pence and Nikki R. Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, to team up on the Republican presidential ticket in 2020, when Mr. Trump has said he anticipates running for re-election.

He has disparaged Mr. Trump’s tax plan and decision not to insist on funding for the border wall that was a signature promise of his presidential campaign. And in March, Mr. Corallo circulated a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that said the president had eroded the credibility of the office he holds.

Mr. Corallo’s Twitter habits are fairly consistent. He supports conservative causes, praises Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, and denounces the rise of the “New York wing” in the White House, which is composed of Mr. Kushner, Ms. Trump, Gary D. Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council; and Dina Powell, a deputy national security adviser who, like Mr. Cohn, is a former executive of Goldman Sachs.

“Dear Mr. President, this is worse than just ‘bad optics,’ ” Mr. Corallo wrote last month, referring to the Kushner family trumpeting its connection with Mr. Trump as it promoted EB-5 immigrant investor visas in China. “It’s sleazy. You could start draining the swamp by removing your in-laws.”

Mr. Corallo referred twice to Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner as “JANKA,” an amalgam of their first names, suggesting they were liberals and at one point questioning whether the president’s daughter should have her own chief of staff.

The majority of Mr. Corallo’s tweets, however, were supportive of Mr. Trump.

“POTUS is Cmdr in Chief. Not ‘Humanitarian in Chief.’ First duty is to protect American people from enemies,” Mr. Corallo tweeted the evening of Jan. 28, appearing to strongly favor the president’s early attempt to institute a travel ban.

In another tweet, on Jan. 7, before the president took office, Mr. Corallo weighed in on a debate over whether Jim Mattis, now the secretary of defense, should be allowed to pick his own people, even if they had criticized the president.

“Loyalty should be first consideration for President Trump,” Mr. Corallo wrote.

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