Trump Shakes Up White House Legal Team by Bringing in an Experienced Fighter

President Donald Trump speaks in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 9, 2018, at the start of a meeting with military leaders. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Donald Trump speaks in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 9, 2018, at the start of a meeting with military leaders. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

 

The White House has confirmed that Ty Cobb, who is leading the team dealing with the special counsel, will retire at the end of May. He will be replaced by veteran DC attorney Emmett Flood.

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.

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.”

Cobb has been reported to have been cooperative with Mueller, in fact, maybe too cooperative. His major fear apparently has been that Mueller will begin serving subpoenas for White House documents and personnel. Maybe a valid fear, who knows? And fear often leads you to negotiate with yourself. But I think we are now entering a stage where Trump is sufficiently pissed off at Mueller and confident enough that there is ‘no there there’ in the Russia collusion charges that he’s willing to risk a fight with Mueller.

If so, he hired the right guy. Flood represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment proceedings. He was back defending the White House in the twilight years of the Bush administration when it was under attack for firing a handful of US attorneys (those would be people Bush hired to begin with). Says the Washington Post:

One person familiar with the legal team said Flood’s selection came in part because the investigation has reached a pivot moment. Cobb had led the White House’s efforts to produce documents in response to requests from Mueller. Now, the White House is anticipating a possible legal showdown over a Trump interview that could force courtroom action.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Mueller raised the possibility of subpoenaing Trump if he declined to sit down for a voluntary interview.

“You had the discovery phase and now you’re entering the litigation phase,” said the person, who requested anonymity to discuss private conversations. “Who do you want on your side if Mueller decides to subpoena the president? You want to have your wartime consigliere. Emmet is a quintessential wartime consigliere.”

Flood also strong ties with a number of other lawyers key to the case. He is close to White House Counsel Don McGahn and with McGahn’s lawyer, Bill Burck, who also represents other key current and former White House staff. He also has a good relationship with Abbe Lowell, who represents Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

The close relationship with McGahn is critical and having a guy who has fought political battles at the highest levels is a big plus. If nothing else it is a clear and unambiguous message to Mueller that the atmosphere has changed.