Columbus native makes waves in Washington, D.C., was contender to represent Trump

Note: We are reposting this column from 2013 because Columbus High School graduate Victoria Toensing was being considered to represent President Donald Trump in the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. The Associated Press reports:

President Donald Trump will not be adding two new lawyers to the legal team defending him in the special counsel’s Russia investigation after all, one of the president’s attorneys said. Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said in a statement Sunday that Washington lawyers Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing have conflicts that won’t allow them to represent the president regarding special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Sekulow had announced diGenova’s appointment last week.

Sekulow said Trump was “disappointed” that diGenova and Toensing won’t be defending him in the special counsel investigation, but “those conflicts do not prevent them from assisting the President in other legal matters.”

“The President looks forward to working with them,” he added.On Sunday, diGenova and Toensing released a joint statement, saying, “We thank the president for his confidence in us, and we look forward to working with him on other matters.” DiGenova, who provided the statement to The Associated Press, declined to answer additional questions about the nature of his and Toensing’s representation of the president.

May 9, 2013Opinion column

By Harry McCawley
Associate editor of The Republic

I’m pretty sure that Victoria Long Toensing never has subscribed to the practice of going along to get along.

She certainly has been illustrating that quality in her personality over the past few weeks, making the rounds on the Fox television network talk shows with allegations that the Obama administration has been trying to muzzle some whistle-blowing U.S. State Department officers about the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya.

Toensing is the attorney for one of the so-called whistle-blowers, some of whom testified Wednesday before a congressional panel investigating the incident in which four Americans were killed. The panel is looking into charges that officials in the State Department and/or White House were negligent in their response to the attacks.

“I’m not talking generally,” Toensing said on one of the Fox programs. “I’m talking specifically about Benghazi — that people have been threatened, and not just the State Department. People have been threatened at the CIA.”

Toensing said that the threats were not physical in nature, but that the employees were told that their careers would be over if they cooperated with congressional investigators.

Toensing is a pretty familiar figure in Washington and the national media. She and her husband, fellow attorney Joseph DiGenova, have been described by the Washington Post as a “power couple” in D.C. For several years in the 1980s, she served in the White House and Justice Department. As a federal prosecutor, she worked on numerous cases involving mob bosses, and in the Reagan administration, she became an expert on international terrorism.

She’s pretty familiar to local residents as well, but in an entirely different setting. She’s a former Columbus resident and 1958 graduate of Columbus High School.

She was born Victoria Long in Panama when her father, Phil Long, was serving in the Army. Her mother was the former Victoria Brady. Phil Long was one of the early developers of Grandview Lake and a decorated veteran of World War II. Her grandmother was legendary Bartholomew County historian Laura Long.

After high school she went to Indiana University where she earned a degree in education. She graduated in 1962, the same year she married David Toensing. The couple eventually moved to Michigan, where she taught school and raised three children.

The marriage ended in 1976, and Victoria Toensing, who had just graduated from the University of Detroit Law School in 1975, became both a breadwinner and a single mother. She proved pretty capable at both. It likely steeled her for the future.

By 1981 she was in Washington serving as chief counsel to Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., who headed the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

In 1984 she joined the Reagan administration as a deputy attorney general. One of her duties was to organize the department’s first terrorism unit, which was specifically charged with investigating and prosecuting crimes of terrorism.

Eventually, she entered private practice and married Joseph DiGenova, another Washington attorney who also was noted for a combative spirit. The couple took on a number of clients, some of them famous or infamous in their own right.

She ventured into television punditry during the Democratic administration of Bill Clinton. Her penchant for challenging presidents began during the Monica Lewinsky affair, which precipitated Clinton’s impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The embattled Clinton

administration was accused of targeting the former Columbus resident when she was asked to represent Linda Tripp, the woman who secretly had taped a critical conversation with Lewinsky about her affair with Clinton.

Eventually, Toensing became the target of a whispering campaign that some allege was organized by the Clinton White House. Her husband said as much in an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where he charged that he and his wife were being investigated by a private detective with links to the White House.

Then, as now, the woman who was the queen of the 1958 Columbus High School prom proved that she could give as well as take in a political blood bath. Consider this remark attributed to her husband in a 1998 interview with the Washington Post.

“My wife and I are madly in love with each other, and we both smoke cigars.”