Trump hires Clinton impeachment lawyer Emmet Flood
President Donald Trump has hired Emmet Flood, an attorney who helped President Bill Clinton manage his impeachment defense, to join his legal team, part of a more aggressive shift in tone in the president’s legal strategy as special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe widens.
Flood will replace Ty Cobb, the top Trump White House attorney who had been handling the Russia investigation.
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“Emmet Flood will be joining the White House Staff to represent the President and the administration against the Russia witch hunt,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “Ty Cobb, a friend of the President, who has done a terrific job, will be retiring at the end of the month.”
Sanders also said that Cobb, the prominent white-collar attorney who left private practice last year for a job in Trump’s inner circle, had been discussing his retirement for several weeks with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
Cobb has been an outspoken advocate on Trump’s legal team for cooperation with Mueller’s probe and a steadying voice since his arrival last summer in urging the president against tweeting about the Russia investigation.
He also helped coordinate the White House’s document production effort and lined up more than two dozen interviews between Mueller and current and former Trump White House aides.
But his departure had also been expected as the president takes a more confrontational approach with the Mueller investigators who since last May have been examining everything from whether Trump or his allies colluded with Russians to win the 2016 presidential election to whether the president obstructed justice in an attempt to shutter the probe. Former FBI director James Comey, who Trump fired, also previously said that the president asked him to let go of an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump’s current team of personal lawyers, led by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, restarted talks last month with Mueller over a potential sit-down interview, though the president and his attorneys have signaled they will resist the special counsel’s overtures and may even force a subpoena fight that could take months as it winds its way through the courts.
Cobb, who hasn’t been a direct player in the negotiations with Mueller on the Trump interview, has withstood months of criticism from conservatives and longtime Trump allies who had been urging the president to fire the top White House lawyer and launch more direct attacks on the special counsel.
Trump had resisted those pleas until March, when he fired off the first in a series of tweets to mention the special counsel by name and also question whether the probe should have ever been launched. Those missives prompted widespread speculation Trump was on the verge of setting in motion Mueller’s firing – which Cobb eventually walked back in an official White House statement saying no such plan was in the works.
Cobb had managed upon joining Trump’s legal team last July to temper the president’s furor against Mueller, tamping down the expectation Trump would get rid of the special counsel. Alongside Kelly, Cobb also was able to limit the president’s Twitter attacks against Mueller.
“I have a very respectful and professional relationship with Bob Mueller. I think very highly of him,” Cobb said in a July 2017 interview just before his first day on the job.
But Cobb was too optimistic about the Russia probe. He initially told reporters he anticipated Mueller would be done interviewing Trump administration staffers around the end of November 2017, when he said he thought the special counsel would issue a formal statement clearing the president of any wrongdoing.
Trump, who maintained constant contact with Cobb and a rotating cast of personal attorneys including Jay Sekulow, John Dowd and more recently, Giuliani, had welcomed Cobb’s timetable and shared it with friends, including during his Thanksgiving 2017 visit, according to people who spoke with him there.