Trump hires probe point man

Lawyer to han­dle me­dia, le­gal re­sponses, White House says

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - JENNIFER JA­COBS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump plans to put a vet­eran Washington lawyer, Ty Cobb, in charge of over­see­ing the White House’s le­gal and me­dia re­sponse to in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

The White House an­nounced Cobb’s hir­ing on Satur­day, with­out pro­vid­ing ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion on his role.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials want some­one to en­force dis­ci­pline in the White House re­gard­ing Rus­sia mat­ters — and that in­cludes the pres­i­dent, who fre­quently vents his frus­tra­tions about the in­ves­ti­ga­tions on Twit­ter, two peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the plan said Fri­day. The peo­ple re­quested anonymity be­cause Cobb’s hir­ing hadn’t been an­nounced at the time.

An email sent to Cobb at the firm Ho­gan Lovells, where he’s a part­ner in the in­ves­ti­ga­tions prac­tice, was an­swered with an au­to­matic re­ply that said he’s trav­el­ing and has lim­ited ac­cess to voice mail and email. He’s ex­pected to join the White House at the end of the month.

Cobb will be the cen­tral in-house fig­ure on mat­ters re­lated to the in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the elec­tion and the Trump cam­paign’s pos­si­ble in­volve­ment, work­ing closely with Trump’s out­side le­gal team led by Marc Ka­sowitz and John Dowd.

Trump’s chief strate­gist, Steve Ban­non, sought to model the White House’s Rus­sia war room in the vein of for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton’s op­er­a­tion dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tions of his White House in the 1990s, two peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter said.

Ban­non went as far as to reach out to Lanny Davis, the Washington lawyer who acted both as Clin­ton’s le­gal ad­viser and spokesman. Others on the Rus­sia-re­sponse team in­clude lawyer Jay Seku­low, a fre­quent TV sur­ro­gate for Trump, and Mark Co­rallo, a pub­lic re­la­tions con­sul­tant.

Trump, known for plac­ing great value on re­la­tion­ships and loy­alty, ap­pears to be as­sem­bling a team of Rus­sia-in­quiry aides fa­mil­iar with Robert Mueller, the spe­cial coun­sel over­see­ing the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Co­rallo worked for the Jus­tice Depart­ment in the early 2000s when Mueller was the FBI direc­tor. Cobb has known Mueller for years, as has Dowd, a for­mer U.S. at­tor­ney who in pri­vate prac­tice han­dled cases re­lated to the Jus­tice Depart­ment.

Cobb is a rel­a­tive of the late base­ball Hall of Famer of the same name. A fel­low of the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Trial Lawyers and a for­mer fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor, he has a rep­u­ta­tion for man­ag­ing crises and deal­ing with cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions. Cobb rep­re­sented fig­ures in­volved in gov­ern­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tions dur­ing the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion, ac­cord­ing to Reuters, which re­ported July 3 that Trump had met with him.

The de­ci­sion ends a week­s­long search in which Trump con­sid­ered sev­eral other lawyers and Repub­li­can per­son­al­i­ties, in­clud­ing Matt Whi­taker, a for­mer U.S. at­tor­ney in Iowa; Laura In­gra­ham, a con­ser­va­tive po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor; and Washington at­tor­neys Wil­liam Burck and Em­met Flood. The move frees White House coun­sel Don McGahn’s staff to fo­cus on other Trump pri­or­i­ties, one of the peo­ple said.

Ac­cord­ing to the peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the move, Cobb is in­tended to be the point per­son for queries from con­gres­sional pan­els and Mueller. He’ll also work not only with Ka­sowitz’s team but with out­side lawyers hired by others in Trump’s in­ner cir­cle.

Some Trump al­lies are con­cerned that the pres­i­dent’s big­gest le­gal li­a­bil­ity isn’t the sus­pi­cion about his cam­paign’s pos­si­ble col­lu­sion with the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment but rather ob­struc­tion-of-jus­tice ac­cu­sa­tions re­lated to his re­sponse to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, in­clud­ing his tweets and his de­ci­sion to fire FBI Direc­tor James Comey.

Rev­e­la­tions this month of his son Don­ald Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meet­ing with a Rus­sian lawyer whom Trump Jr. be­lieved to have dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion on Hil­lary Clin­ton has re­newed a sense of ur­gency in the White House to firm up its strat­egy on the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tions, White House aides said.

A fel­low of the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Trial Lawyers and a for­mer fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor, he has a rep­u­ta­tion for man­ag­ing crises and deal­ing with cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions.

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