Since the end of July, President Donald Trump has noticeably tempered his public complaints about the Russia investigation, avoiding any Twitter allusions to a “witch hunt” or threats to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.
That’s partly due to the intervention of White House lawyer Ty Cobb, who since joining the administration 2½ months ago has impressed upon Trump the risks of using such loaded language when it comes to Mueller, according to a White House official and several sources familiar with the president’s legal strategy.
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Cobb’s ability to keep Trump’s Russia rage under control is going to be tested in the months ahead as Mueller’s probe heats up. The special counsel’s team is interviewing current and former White House officials and campaign staffers, as well as the president’s own family members, in its sprawling investigation.
Solomon Wisenberg, a former deputy on Kenneth Starr’s independent counsel investigation into President Bill Clinton, credited Cobb with having “a very salutary effect” on Trump. “It’s one thing to have an adviser to tell you, ‘Boy, if you say this it’s not good politics, it’s not good for us,’” he said. “It’s another thing to have your white-collar lawyer say, ‘This is extremely harmful to you legally to say this.’”
Cobb’s job — for which he’s putting in upward of 85 hours a week — includes reviewing a vast database of internal documents relevant to the Russia probe and also speaking with reporters, though he has studiously avoided television appearances. Five staffers now work for him full time at the White House, including Steven Groves, who stepped down in August from his job as chief of staff to U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.
In an interview, Cobb said he can’t take credit for the change in the president’s tone on Russia, and notes that John Kelly took over as White House chief of staff the same week he arrived. But, Cobb said, it’s the president who really changed course, endorsing a move toward greater cooperation in hopes of speeding Mueller’s probe to a close.