Incompetent White House Lawyers Discuss Russia Probe in Public

Martini (Alex Butterfield / Flickr / CC / Cropped)
Alex Butterfield / Flickr / CC / Cropped

The New York Times scored a scoop after reporter Ken Vogel overheard two senior White House lawyers, Ty Cobb and John Dowd, discussing details of the Russia investigation over lunch at a popular Washington, DC, restaurant.

After overhearing the conversation, Vogel reported Sunday about clashes between Cobb and White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II.

The common understanding is apparently that Donald Trump has done nothing wrong and there is no evidence of Russian collusion. But while Cobb favors turning over as many documents as possible to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, McGahn apparently worries about setting a bad precedent that could erode future presidential powers.

There are also clashes about the role that Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, is playing in the probe.

Vogel overheard details about the dispute — including the claim that tensions among White House lawyers have grown so intense that they suspect each other of wearing wires to provide intelligence to Mueller:

The friction escalated in recent days after Mr. Cobb was overheard by a reporter for The New York Times discussing the dispute during a lunchtime conversation at a popular Washington steakhouse. Mr. Cobb was heard talking about a White House lawyer he deemed ”a McGahn spy” and saying Mr. McGahn had ”a couple documents locked in a safe” that he seemed to suggest he wanted access to. He also mentioned a colleague whom he blamed for ”some of these earlier leaks,” and who he said ”tried to push Jared out,” meaning Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who has been a previous source of dispute for the legal team.

The suspicion within the legal team seemed evident in the lunch conversation Mr. Cobb had last week with Mr. Dowd at BLT Steak, not far from the White House and a few doors down from The Times’s office. A reporter who happened to be at the next table heard Mr. Cobb describing varying views of how to respond to Mr. Mueller’s requests for documents.

Vogel also reported that the White House is not concerned about the infamous meeting between Donald Trump, Jr. and a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower, though it has been fodder for his critics.

“Mr. Cobb also discussed the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting — and the White House’s response to it — saying that ”there was no perception that there was an exchange’,” Vogel reported.

However, fears of leaks are evident — as are doubts about the team’s competence, as the White House scrambles to contain the fallout of an effectively public conversation about the private details of the president’s legal defense.

One commentator on social media speculated that the lawyers had discussed the Russia probe in public on purpose as a way of leaking information to the media.

Given that attorneys guard their reputations jealously, however, that seems unlikely, as careless handling of clients’ cases can easily lead to Bar complaints and harm future client relationships.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.