The White House has hired a highly experienced lawyer who who has spent much of his career defending corruption cases and white-collar crime, to be in house counsel for Russia-related matters.
Ty Tobb, a close descendent of a celebrated but controversial baseball player, has left his job with the Washington DC law firm Hogan Lovells. Unlike the slew of other outside lawyers retained by either the White House or by Donald Trump personally, Mr Cobb will work from inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The decision to hire Mr Cobb came as administration officials seek someone to enforce discipline in the White House regarding Russia matters, including the President, who frequently vents his frustrations about the investigations on Twitter, according to Bloomberg News. And it has taken place amid fresh controversy about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, after Mr Trump’s eldest son admitted he had met with a Russian lawyer after he was told she had incriminating information for him on Hillary Clinton.
Donald Trump defends ‘wonderful’ son’s meeting with Russian lawyer
Who is Ty Cobb?
Mr Cobb, a partner at Hogan Lovells, has a reputation as a no-nonsense, expensive, white collar criminal lawyer who has specialised in corruption and money laundering cases. A fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, Mr Cobb graduated from Harvard University and earned a law degree from Georgetown. CNN said in the past Mr Cobb successfully defended beef processor Hudson Foods against charges that company officials lied to investigators after a massive recall of meat contaminated with E coli. The officials were acquitted of all charges.
He also defended Democratic Party fundraiser John Huang against charges of violating campaign finance laws, to which Huang ultimately pleaded guilty in 1999. In 2005, Mr Cobb defended CIA whistleblower Mary McCarthy, who was accused of leaking information to the Washington Post about CIA “black sites”. She was dismissed but Mr Cobb said she “categorically denied leaking classified information and having access to the information attributed to her”.
Mr Cobb was a former federal prosecutor in Baltimore in the 1980s, where he led the region’s drug enforcement and organised crime task force.
“Ty is a preeminent white collar defence lawyer who is celebrated for his ability to give creative and strategic advice, for his tireless work ethic, and for his unwavering commitment to the highest standards of professionalism and the rule of law,” said Hogan Lovells CEO Stephen Immelt.
What will he do?
Reports suggest Mr Cobb will act as the “traffic cop” and enforcer in the White House’s legal team handling the Russia controversy.
In recent days, there have been reports that Mr Trump’s outside legal team, headed by New York lawyer Marc Kasowitz, were becoming increasingly frustrated by the President’s lack of discipline – especially in regard to his remarks about his case on Twitter. (Mr Trump in turn is said to have become frustrated by Mr Kasowitz and his allegedly lukewarm defence of him and his top officials.)
Bloomberg said Mr Cobb will be the central figure in the coordinated actions from now on – a move that may have had its genesis in the desire of Mr Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, to set up a White House’s Russia war room, similar to that which operated in Bill Clinton’s White House when he the target of a special prosecutor, Kenneth Starr.)
“Mr Cobb, a long-time leader at Hogan Lovells, has been widely recognised as one of the premier white collar, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) enforcement, and congressional investigations lawyers in the world. Clients managing crises, allegations of corruption, and other critical matters turn to Ty to guide them,” reads the bio on the Hogan Lovells website.
Famous sporting connection
Cobb is said to have set at least 90 baseball records (Library of Congress)
Mr Cobb has said he is a distant descendant of the record-breaking Major League Baseball player, with whom he shares the same name. Ty Cobb, who spent 22 seasons with the Detroit Tigers and finished his playing career with the Philadelphia Athletics, is said to have set 90 MLB records.
Cobb was among a handful of players to be inducted into the first Hall of Fame, beating the likes of even Babe Ruth in popular votes. His reputation has been since tarnished by allegations of racism and violent behaviour, claims that others dispute. While Mr Cobb, the lawyer, says he is a distant relative of the sportsman, others have suggested he is one of his grandsons. Hogan Lovells failed to respond to inquiries.
Why is his appointment as White House counsel so important?
Donald Trump Jr on Fox News last week talking about his meeting with a Russian lawyer (AP)
Donald Trump and his senior aides continue to claim they have done nothing wrong and that the furore over the possible links with Russia is nothing more than a “witch hunt”.
Yet last’s weeks admission by Donald Trump Jr that he met with lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, in the expectation that he was to receive dirt on Hillary Clinton, has led many former Trump supporters to question just what really happened.
As figures such as Vice President Mike Pence seek to distance themselves from the meeting, which was also attended by Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, there are mounting calls for transparency. Fox News anchor Shep Smith summed how many conservatives are feeling, when he said on air: “The deception…is mind-boggling…why are we getting told all these lies?”
Everyone from the President down has retained their own lawyer, with Mr Trump Jr last week hiring Alan Futerfas to represent him.
They have done so while special prosecutor Robert Mueller is heading a federal probe into possible collusion with Russia’s alleged effort to influence the 2016 election. The decision to reach out to someone with such high-level experience as Mr Cobb may mean that Mr Trump – or at least those advisors he listens to – are finally understanding the scale of the problem the administration faces.