Attorney Ty Cobb, who is related to the baseball great of the same name, plans to leave the Hogan Lovells law firm, where he is a partner, to oversee the White House legal and media response to the several probes into alleged Russian meddling in US politics. According to CNN, Cobb has been named White House special counsel. He is a former federal prosecutor. His appointment was announced on Saturday.
According to Bloomberg News, Georgetown Law-grad Cobb “will be the central in-house figure” to advise on the Russia probes, and will work cooperatively with President Trump's personal lawyers Marc Kasowitz and John Dowd, a former U.S. attorney who retired from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in 2015. Another attorney counseling Trump is Jay Sekulow.
Cobb has been a white-collar defense partner in Hogan Lovells’ investigations practice. Another partner at the firm, former US Solicitor General Neal Katyal, is involved in litigating a challenge to President Trump's temporary travel ban. In the past, Katyal has tweeted his opposition to Trump.
Democrat law professor raises questions
In Forbes magazine, University of Baltimore law professor Charles Tiefer raised questions about Cobb's appointment. Tiefer asked whether Cobb will be paid by taxpayers and, if so, whether he will operate with neutrality as do public officials. Tiefer also asked, “If he is Trump’s private lawyer, then why will he have the access and authority of a public, official, executive actor?”
Tiefer has a close relationship to the Democratic Party, having been called as an expert witness before House Judiciary Committee member Trey Gowdy (R-SC) in 2014 in a hearing about IRS official Lois Lerner's treatment of conservative organizations and their applications for tax-exempt status. Tiefer had been brought before the committee by Democrats to opine on whether or not a special counsel should investigate the IRS.
Gowdy asked Tiefer: "Professor Tiefer, would you seat a juror who referred to your client as an obscene body part?" Gowdy was referring indirectly to emails in which Lerner referred to conservatives "a**holes," "terrorists" and "crazies." Tiefer appeared to be surprised by the question, answering: "I'm sorry...uh?" Gowdy asked: "Would you seat a juror, in a trial, who referred to your client as an obscene body part?" Tiefer responded: "I really have trouble ... giving you an answer ..."
Gowdy said: "Well, then you would starve to death as a lawyer, if you can't answer that question, professor. You would seriously consider seating a juror, in a trial, a criminal trial where your client was accused of a crime, if that juror had referred to your client as an obscene body part, you would struggle with whether or not to strike that juror?"
Tiefer: "Well, it doesn't sound too good..."
"No, it's not," Gowdy said. "And I'll give you some free litigation advice: You're going to want to use one of your strikes on that juror. How about if you were a prosecutor, and one of the potential jurors referred to the police as 'terrorists' who were gonna bring the country down, would you seat that juror in a criminal prosecution, if you were a prosecutor?"
"I wish I saw the connection here, but..." said Tiefer.
"I'll give you the connection!" Gowdy said. "Lois Lerner just referred to conservatives as an obscene body part and she said we were 'crazies' and likened us to terrorists!"
When a Democrat colleague from Georgia sought to interrupt, Gowdy refused to yield the floor and attempted to wrest an acknowledgement from Tiefer that there had been an obvious conflict of interest in the Department of Justice handling of the IRS investigation.