It’s getting hard to tell the players without a scorecard, isn’t it? Ty Cobb joined Donald Trump’s legal team in regard to the special counsel probe last year and appeared to have eclipsed John Dowd in making strategic decisions. At the same time, Cobb tells the New York Times, he told Trump he wanted to retire.
Say what? Just as the long-awaited Mueller interview was on the horizon?
In a phone interview, Mr. Cobb said he informed the president weeks ago that he wanted to retire. He said he planned to stay at the White House, likely through the end of the month, to help Mr. Flood transition into the new job.
“It has been an honor to serve the country in this capacity at the White House,” he said. “I wish everybody well moving forward.”
If it wasn’t a surprise at the White House, it certainly comes as a surprise everywhere else. As early as this morning, Cobb was telling ABC’s Rick Klein on his “Powerhouse Politics” podcast that “things were still in a lane” to negotiate an interview with Mueller’s team:
White House lawyer Ty Cobb told ABC News during an exclusive interview on Wednesday that a presidential interview with special counsel Robert Mueller has not been ruled out.
“It’s certainly not off the table and people are working hard to make decisions and work towards an interview,” Cobb told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein on ABC’s “Powerhouse Politics” podcast.
“And assuming that can be concluded favorably, there’ll be an interview,” he said. “Assuming it can’t be… assuming an agreement can’t be reached, you know then it’ll go a different route.”
If Cobb had already decided to retire weeks ago, why would he be taking the lead with the media on this sensitive topic? One would think that Jay Sekulow should have been handling this duty. Perhaps it’s all just a coincidence, but reread my post this morning on Trump’s attack on Mueller’s probe on obstruction as a “setup & trap.” Cobb had been a leading voice even after that on working out a deal for an interview for that “setup & trap.” Just moments later, suddenly Cobb’s out. Hmmmm. On the other hand, the NYT reported at least two months ago that Cobb was looking forward to the end of this assignment, and that it might come sooner rather than later.
If Cobb’s out, then who’s in? Double hmmm:
President Trump plans to hire Emmet T. Flood, the veteran Washington lawyer who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment, to replace Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer who has taken the lead in dealing with the special counsel investigation, who is retiring, according to two people briefed on the matter. …
Mr. Flood is expected to take a more adversarial approach to the investigation than Mr. Cobb, who had pushed Mr. Trump to strike a cooperative tone. Mr. Flood initially spoke with the White House last summer about working for the president, but the talks ultimately fell apart because Mr. Flood did not want to deal with Mr. Trump’s longtime New York lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, who was overseeing the president’s dealings with the special counsel at the time.
The same team that wrote today’s article also reported two months ago that Flood was in talks to join Trump’s legal team, in the same article that related Cobb’s desire to leave. They note at the end of today’s report that Trump didn’t think very highly of their story at the time:
The Failing New York Times purposely wrote a false story stating that I am unhappy with my legal team on the Russia case and am going to add another lawyer to help out. Wrong. I am VERY happy with my lawyers, John Dowd, Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow. They are doing a great job and…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 11, 2018
…have shown conclusively that there was no Collusion with Russia..just excuse for losing. The only Collusion was that done by the DNC, the Democrats and Crooked Hillary. The writer of the story, Maggie Haberman, a Hillary flunky, knows nothing about me and is not given access.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 11, 2018
Less than two months later, only Sekulow remains, and Flood’s on board. Flood, by the way, comes with impeachment experience thanks to his time in Clinton World. He worked on the team headed up by Lanny Davis, but he also worked in the Bush Administration as a member of the White House Counsel’s office, focused on defending the administration in congressional investigations. Dick Cheney is Flood’s private-practice client. Flood’s resumé looks like a tour de force of Trump’s political bêtes noires of the 2016 campaign, which proves once and for all that politics makes for strange bedfellows.
Needless to say, Flood’s not going to be an encouraging voice for submitting to special-counsel interviews. But at least he’ll be able to get a clearance, which … is yet another problem for Trump’s legal team in dealing with Mueller.
Update: Rudy Giuliani tells the Washington Post that Cobb wasn’t pushed out. Also, they’re changing strategy. And also, Jay Sekulow wanted “someone more aggressive.”
In an interview with The Post, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giulani — who is now serving as Trump’s lead personal attorney dealing with the special counsel — said the president did not force Cobb to leave.
“It was just time for him to go, but he’s still going to be available to us,” Giuliani said.
He added that Jay Sekulow, another member of Trump’s legal team, “had the most to do with it.”
“Jay felt he need someone that more aggressive,” Giuliani said. “That’s not a criticism of Ty, but it’s just about how we’re going to do this.”
Does that sound like it’s nothing more than a retirement?