Trump hires probe point man

Lawyer to handle media, legal responses, White House says

President Donald Trump plans to put a veteran Washington lawyer, Ty Cobb, in charge of overseeing the White House's legal and media response to investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The White House announced Cobb's hiring on Saturday, without providing additional information on his role.

Administration officials want someone to enforce discipline in the White House regarding Russia matters -- and that includes the president, who frequently vents his frustrations about the investigations on Twitter, two people familiar with the plan said Friday. The people requested anonymity because Cobb's hiring hadn't been announced at the time.

An email sent to Cobb at the firm Hogan Lovells, where he's a partner in the investigations practice, was answered with an automatic reply that said he's traveling and has limited access to voice mail and email. He's expected to join the White House at the end of the month.

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Cobb will be the central in-house figure on matters related to the investigations into Russian interference in the election and the Trump campaign's possible involvement, working closely with Trump's outside legal team led by Marc Kasowitz and John Dowd.

Trump's chief strategist, Steve Bannon, sought to model the White House's Russia war room in the vein of former President Bill Clinton's operation during the investigations of his White House in the 1990s, two people familiar with the matter said.

Bannon went as far as to reach out to Lanny Davis, the Washington lawyer who acted both as Clinton's legal adviser and spokesman. Others on the Russia-response team include lawyer Jay Sekulow, a frequent TV surrogate for Trump, and Mark Corallo, a public relations consultant.

Trump, known for placing great value on relationships and loyalty, appears to be assembling a team of Russia-inquiry aides familiar with Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation. Corallo worked for the Justice Department in the early 2000s when Mueller was the FBI director. Cobb has known Mueller for years, as has Dowd, a former U.S. attorney who in private practice handled cases related to the Justice Department.

Cobb is a relative of the late baseball Hall of Famer of the same name. A fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and a former federal prosecutor, he has a reputation for managing crises and dealing with corruption allegations.

Cobb represented figures involved in government investigations during the Clinton administration, according to Reuters, which reported July 3 that Trump had met with him.

The decision ends a weekslong search in which Trump considered several other lawyers and Republican personalities, including Matt Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney in Iowa; Laura Ingraham, a conservative political commentator; and Washington attorneys William Burck and Emmet Flood. The move frees White House counsel Don McGahn's staff to focus on other Trump priorities, one of the people said.

According to the people familiar with the move, Cobb is intended to be the point person for queries from congressional panels and Mueller. He'll also work not only with Kasowitz's team but with outside lawyers hired by others in Trump's inner circle.

Some Trump allies are concerned that the president's biggest legal liability isn't the suspicion about his campaign's possible collusion with the Russian government but rather obstruction-of-justice accusations related to his response to the investigation, including his tweets and his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey.

Revelations this month of his son Donald Trump Jr.'s June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer whom Trump Jr. believed to have damaging information on Hillary Clinton has renewed a sense of urgency in the White House to firm up its strategy on the Russia investigations, White House aides said.

A Section on 07/16/2017

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