White House lawyer Ty Cobb will retire at the end of the month, the White House said Wednesday, further shaking up President Donald Trump’s legal team as the president intensifies his attacks on the special counsel’s Russia investigation.
Cobb, the White House point person on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, informed White House chief of staff John Kelly last week that he would retire at the end of May. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Cobb had been discussing the decision for “several weeks.”
“For several weeks Ty Cobb has been discussing his retirement and last week he let Chief of Staff Kelly know he would retire at the end of this month,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
Cobb did not personally represent the president, but he was a key adviser, coordinating the administration’s dealings with Mueller. His retirement comes as the president’s personal legal team has been negotiating the terms of a possible sit-down between Trump and prosecutors.
He 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.
Cobb, who is leaving less than a year after his appointment, said in a statement that “it has been an honor to serve the country in this capacity at the White House. I wish everybody well moving forward.”
Washington attorney Emmet Flood is expected to replace Cobb at a time when the president’s lawyers are negotiating with Mueller about possible testimony from Trump, and the possibility that the special counsel might seek to subpoena the president.
Cobb’s departure comes a day after one of Trump’s former personal attorneys, John Dowd, confirmed to The Associated Press that Mueller’s team in March raised the prospect of issuing a grand jury subpoena for Trump, an extraordinary idea that would seek to force a sitting president to testify under oath.
Dowd said Mueller’s team broached the subject during a meeting with Trump’s legal team while they were negotiating the terms of the possible interview with the president.
Dowd himself left Trump’s legal team more than a month ago.
It was not immediately clear in what context the possibility of a subpoena was raised or how serious Mueller’s prosecutors were about such a move. Mueller is probing not only Russian election interference and possible coordination with Trump associates but possible obstruction of justice by Trump.
Trump lashed out against the investigation in a familiar fashion Wednesday, saying on Twitter: “There was no Collusion (it is a Hoax) and there is no Obstruction of Justice (that is a setup & trap).”
Even if Mueller’s team decided to subpoena Trump as part of the investigation, the president could still fight it in court or refuse to answer questions by invoking his Fifth Amendment protection from self-incrimination.
Cobb told the New York Times in a phone interview he is staying on the job to help with the transition of his replacement Emmet Flood, an attorney who helped President Bill Clinton manage his impeachment defense and also served as a White House counsel under President George W. Bush.
White House Lawyer Ty Cobb to Depart Donald Trump’s Legal Team