Executive Branch

BigLaw partner Cobb named special counsel for Russia probe; law prof has 'worrying questions'

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Ty Cobb/Courtesy Hogan Lovells

Hogan Lovells partner Ty Cobb, a former federal prosecutor, is leaving his law firm to oversee the White House response to the Russian influence probe.

Cobb was named White House special counsel overseeing the legal and media response to the probe of Russian interference in the election, report CNN, Bloomberg News, the New York Times and the National Law Journal (sub. req.). The White House announced Cobb’s appointment on Saturday.

According to Bloomberg, Cobb “will be the central in-house figure” on matters relating to the Russia probe, and will work closely with Trump lawyers Marc Kasowitz and John Dowd, a former U.S. attorney who retired from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in 2015.

Cobb, a Georgetown law grad, is a white-collar defense partner in Hogan Lovells’ investigations practice. The National Law Journal says Cobb is “a relative of the baseball great of the same name.”

Some Hogan Lovells lawyers are involved in litigation challenging President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban. Former U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal is a partner, and his tweets have criticized Trump administration policies.

In an article for Forbes, University of Baltimore law professor Charles Tiefer raises “worrying questions” about the appointment.

Tiefer questions whether Cobb will be paid by the taxpayers, as a regular White House counsel is paid. “But he does not remotely resemble a public, official, executive actor paid by the taxpayers to neutrally operate the government,” Tiefer writes.

But he also raises questions about Cobb’s influence if the president is paying for his services. “If he is Trump’s private lawyer,” Tiefer asks, “then why will he have the access and authority of a public, official, executive actor?”

Among Tiefer’s additional questions:

• “Should his authority be recognized by other executive lawyers like the Justice Department? That is like taking a department of public prosecutors and ordering them to set aside their responsibilities and join the opposing team.”

• “Is Cobb now the official guardian of the all-important executive privilege and able to use it manipulatively to delay and obstruct the Russia investigations?”

• “Can he give instruction to others at the White House how to resist and delay investigation?”

Updated July 18 to correct quote in headline.

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