Former White House lawyer Ty Cobb opened up about his experience helping President Donald Trump navigate the special counsel investigation of Robert S. Mueller III for nearly 11 months.
In a winding interview with ABC News released Tuesday, the attorney called Mueller an ‘American hero.’
Here are five key takeaways from Cobbs interview, and what it tells us about how one close adviser to Trump views Mueller, the president and Democratic House investigators:
1. Mueller an ‘American hero,’ Cobb says, diverging from Trump
Cobb has a personal relationship with Mueller. He has known him for 30 years as a prosecutor and “friend,” the former White House counsel told ABC News.
“I think Bob Mueller’s an American hero,” Cobb said. “I think the world of Bob Mueller. He is a very deliberate guy… a class act … and a very justice-oriented person.”
The president has openly flayed Mueller and his special counsel team dozens of times over the last year for embarking on a “witch hunt” outside the investigation’s original scope, even though Mueller was given broad authority to investigate whatever threads emerged from his mandate.
That “witch hunt” has dished out criminal indictments to 37 people (so far), secured plea deals with five former Trump aides, and a conviction of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
“I don’t feel the investigation is a witch hunt,” Cobb said in his interview.
Cobb claimed he was able to keep Trump from lashing out about Mueller’s investigation for nearly a year before the president began attacking the special counsel publicly.
That’s not entirely true. Trump called the Russia investigation a “witch hunt” on Twitter at least eight times from when Cobb took over the White House legal team on July 31, 2017, through March 2018 — roughly two months before he resigned.
“It wasn’t really until [White House legal adviser John] Dowd sent out a critical tweet of Mueller and [Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani] joined the team that the onslaught [began],” Cobb said. “I think the president felt unleashed.”
2. The White House was compliant with the investigation. The campaign? Not so much
Cobb was quick to point out that Trump — in an attempt to put the Russia investigation behind him — handed over thousands of White House documents and mostly made advisers available for voluntary interviews.
“This is a president who did not fight the special counsel in terms of evidentiary request,” Cobb said. “The White House produced 21,000 plus-or-minus 1,000 documents.”
But the Trump campaign voluntarily produced just “one, two” documents, Cobb said.
That could be because the campaign had more to hide.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn is the only Trump administration official to face indictment after he lied to the FBI about his contacts with Russia.
Everyone else — Manafort, Rick Gates, Michael Cohen, George Papadopoulos, now Roger Stone — was either on the 2016 campaign team, the inaugural committee, or both.
3. Cobb expects Mueller to release report ‘no later than mid-March’
The former White House counsel did not indicate in his interview that he has any insider information about when Mueller will hand his final report to Attorney General William Barr, who won’t recuse himself from the investigation.
But Cobb still shared his opinions about why Mueller did not release the final file last week, when it was reported that he might.
Cobb believes that Mueller held onto the report last week to avoid fueling the spectacle of the public House Oversight Committee testimony of former Trump personal lawyer Cohen. Cobb speculated that Mueller may have sought to avoid distracting the president while he was in Vietnam negotiating a denuclearization deal with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
That’s “classic Bob Mueller,” Cobb said, before taking a dig at Democratic House investigators for hosting an untimely hearing with Cohen.
“Unlike the Democrats on the Hill who have this Cohen show while the president of our country is trying to negotiate, you know, the potential denuclearization of the North Korean peninsula, which would have otherwise been important to the people in the past — I think that’s shameful. And I think Mueller would not drop this report with the president out of the country,” Cobb said.
4. Trump’s combative approach to Mueller has left a bad taste in Cobb’s mouth
Cobb indicated that he is disappointed in the way Trump’s new legal and PR teams have handled the Mueller investigation — or, at least, that it’s not the route he would have taken.
He threw a backhanded compliment at Giuliani, saying the former New York mayor and Trump have “been effective in a way that would not have been preferable” for him.
“They have ratcheted up the public’s concerns about the investigation and its legitimacy. I object to that approach,” Cobb said. “But it’s his choice. He’s the President. And it’s what — it’s what Clinton did to Ken Starr.”
5. Mueller may soon file his report, but investigation of Trump is ‘never going to be over’
Trump is frustrated that the Mueller investigation has dogged his presidency since its early months, particularly how it has affected his foreign policy, Cobb said.
But Trump might as well get used to it because even when Mueller issues his report, House Democrats will pick up the investigatory slack.
“He doesn’t like the timing. He wants this over. But it’s never going to be over,” Cobb said. “This is going to go through 2020. And if the president’s re-elected, it’ll go beyond that.”
While Cobb believes Speaker Nancy Pelosi is too politically calculating to ever let the Democratic caucus move to impeach Trump, the investigations will go on and on.
House Oversight, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committee Chairmen Elijah Cummings, Adam Schiff and Jerrold Nadler have already announced investigations into the president’s personal finances, potential ties to foreign countries, and alleged obstruction of justice.
Nadler sent letters and document requests to 81 Trump associates and entities on Monday, as he rolled out plans for a wide-ranging investigation into obstruction of justice and corruption allegations against the president and his inner circle.
“I think we’ve seen it clear that Cummings and Schiff and others, Nadler … that all these people are basically hellbent on issuing a lot of subpoenas to get to the administration and perpetuate this investigation,” Cobb said.