One of the president’s former lawyers in the Russia probe said he doesn’t believe Robert Mueller is conducting a “witch hunt” and said it was important for him to be “honorably interacting” with the special counsel.
Ty Cobb served from July 2017 to May 2018 on President Trump’s internal White House legal team dealing with the Mueller investigation.
He appeared at CNN’s CITIZEN conference in New York today alongside Jack Quinn, who served as White House counsel from 1995-96, and declared that “Bill Clinton was the best client I ever had.”
“Believe it or not, he not only listened to advice, he sought it out and particularly, frankly, when he was in crisis he wanted input, he wanted other people’s thinking,” Quinn said.
“I think the mythology of Bill Clinton hot-tempered is just that — it’s largely a myth,” he added.
“I had a slightly different experience,” Cobb chimed in, sparking laughter from the audience.
Clinton, Cobb said, “was a lawyer, had been to law school, had been a governor, was familiar with a lot of the way government worked,” while Trump “came into office as a neophyte to the management of government and, as a result, he had a lot of questions about the structure of government, what the powers were in this area, that area.”
Cobb said Trump “was frustrated to learn about certain restrictions and delighted to learn about certain areas where his power was less encumbered, but it was challenging because it was unconventional.”
“It was one of the first times we’ve have somebody with so little prior political governance experience,” he added.
Cobb was asked if he was concerned with Trump tweeting about special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe into Russian campaign interference.
“When I interviewed for the position, I had some specific issues that I wanted to discuss in advance. It was important to me, in order to accomplish the tasks that I had, which was honorably interacting with the special counsel and facilitating either a court battle over documents or working at a way to cooperate. It was important to me not to have criticism widely thrown back-and-forth and turn it into a Ken Starr-like process, the way that ended up,” Cobb replied. “I think it was largely successful on the front end. It deteriorated some on the back end, but the president has a new personal team now, and he’s in charge of those guys.”
“I don’t think it’s a witch hunt,” Cobb said of the Mueller investigation.
Quinn said a key factor in how Clinton’s case was resolved with impeachment but not conviction was that “we didn’t have Twitter, but by the same token he didn’t go out and get on the campaign trail and make speeches about Ken Starr — he was not ranting about this all the time; he didn’t try to win those things in the court of public opinion.”
“He shut up about them, OK, we staffed up and put together a great internal law office to handle these things and he focused on doing the job of being president, and that’s what the American people responded to,” Quinn added.
Cobb noted the Clinton and Trump investigations have unfolded in very different political and 24-hour news cycle environments.
Cobb said that he and Trump “didn’t have those discussions often” about whether a tweet was a good idea. “But to the extent that he would have a question that was along those strategic lines, it was important literally just to go to ground zero and take each stairway up the decision-making tree. And develop consensus among ourselves.”
Quinn said he “did not have a good relationship with Ken Starr” and described a moment when he lost his temper at the independent counsel when he thought Starr was being “petty” and “small.” Cobb declared that “Bob Mueller is an American hero” and “I’ve respected him throughout.”
Cobb described “significant discussions about the scope of what would be produced, and whether it would be produced voluntarily, and we agreed on our mechanism.”
“We had more back and forth, we were able to reach agreements and we didn’t have to litigate things,” he said. “Because any time you force institutions, government institutions, whether it’s Congress on the presidency, you know, the special counsel’s office on the presidency into court — you know, somebody’s power is going to be diminished and not necessarily for the betterment of America.”
He said he “honestly” doesn’t know what will happen with the Mueller report.
“I do believe that he has an intention to get it done as quickly as he possibly can. He’s a very deliberate person. He’s got some very serious lawyers who’re working for him, helping to compile the report,” Cobb said.
Quinn noted that “if the Democrats take the House of Representatives” on Nov. 6, “they will have subpoena power.”
“They will exercise it, and if there is a report which has not been made available to the American people, I think they will move heaven and earth to make sure that that report is made available,” he added.