The White House announced Wednesday that – with one of President Donald Trump’s leading defense lawyers, Ty Cobb, retiring – Washington, DC, attorney Emmet Flood will take his place, possibly indicating a more aggressive defense posture on Trump’s team.
“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.”
The replaced Cobb long raised eyebrows on the political right with his deferential approach to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s now nearly year-long investigation, ostensibly focused on Russian election interference. In that time, Cobb repeatedly set deadlines by which he thought Mueller would be finished probing the Trump campaign and White House, all of which proved woefully optimistic, and twice discussed Trump’s defense strategy in public, to the delight of journalists.
Flood’s appointment, along with the recent addition of former U.S. Attorney and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to head the team, may herald a rejection of Cobb’s “full cooperation mode” and the adoption of a more aggressive posture towards Mueller, who reportedly wishes to interview the president on topics related more to obstruction of justice than anything involving Russia or “collusion.”
“[Fellow Trump lawyer] Jay [Sekulow] felt that he needed someone that was more aggressive,” Giuliani told the Washington Post about Flood’s replacing Cobb. “That’s not a criticism of Ty, but it’s just about how we’re going to do this.”
Others with knowledge of the defense team were less diplomatic. “Cobb was a mistake from the beginning. He is the author of a legal strategy that was as radical as it was unwise — the unprompted and immediate waiving of executive privilege. His persistent over-promising and under-performing leaves Rudy and Emmett Flood an enormous mess to clean up,” former White House Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon told Breitbart News.
A partner at Williams and Connolly, perhaps the world’s most prominent white-collar defense law firm, Flood represented President Bill Clinton in his impeachment proceedings. He then served as a special counsel in the George W. Bush administration, where he advised figures like Vice President Dick Cheney on some of the biggest legal controversies of the era, including the Valerie Palme Affair. As a new attorney in the 1990s, he clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
The administration has reportedly been courting Flood since last summer, but was unable to secure him then on account of his dislike for Trump outside lawyer Marc Kasowitz, who has since left the President’s employ.
At least one leftist legal commentator was upset at the news of Cobb’s replacement. “Ty Cobb is the only Trump lawyer who hasn’t had his reputation totally ruined by association with Trump. … Ty Cobb has been all about cooperation with the Mueller investigation. He’s been a voice of reason,” argues Above The Law editor Elie Mystal, who elsewhere has written that he will feel unfulfilled if he does not go to prison for “resisting” Trump and that black jurors should deliberately let criminals go free if they victimize whites.
“Getting rid of Cobb suggests a far more aggressive posture towards the investigation,” Mystal suggests. “Our slow-moving constitutional crisis could turn into a full-on train wreck soon enough.”