President Donald Trump’s two top lawyers are struggling to work together as the pressure intensifies around the White House from Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
According to an explosive report in the New York Times, White House Special Counsel Don McGahn and Trump’s personal lawyer Ty Cobb have clashed over Cobb’s indiscretion and unprofessional conduct as well as their differing ideas with how to handle the investigations encircling the Trump investigation and Pres. Trump’s family.
According to the Times, tensions have long simmered between the two men. Cobb is pushing for an approach of complete cooperation with Mueller’s team, handing over all documents as requested. McGahn is of a similar opinion, but is concerned about the precedent that it would set not just for this White House but future presidential administrations under investigation.
That simmering came to a boil recently when a Times reporter overheard Cobb loudly talking about the investigation over lunch in a popular D.C. 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,” wrote Peter Baker and Kenneth Vogel. “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 newspaper contacted the White House asking for comment on Cobb’s statements, which reportedly sent McGahn into a rage.
“Mr. McGahn privately erupted at Mr. Cobb, according to people informed about the confrontation who asked not to be named describing internal matters. John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, sharply reprimanded Mr. Cobb for his indiscretion, the people said,” reported the Times.
Cobb has reportedly divided requests for documents into 13 categories, but declined to enumerate them. He and McGahn are trying to coordinate their respective areas of the administration’s legal response, but McGahn — who has been named as a potential witness in the probe — is walking a delicate tightrope with regards to his potential for self-incrimination and the strictures of attorney-client privilege.
The White House legal defense operation has always been a “caldron of rivalry and intrigue,” the Times said, since Trump brought in his longtime personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz, who was later ejected from the team in favor of Cobb.
Cobb has drawn scrutiny in recent weeks over his bizarre and profane email outbursts and his portentously informing MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that their single phone conversation would be “the last call that we’ll have.”