According to the New York Times, there’s an internal schism within Trump’s team of Robert Mueller-fighting legal representatives.
The debate in Mr. Trump’s West Wing has pitted Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, against Ty Cobb, a lawyer brought in to manage the response to the investigation. Mr. Cobb has argued for turning over as many of the emails and documents requested by the special counsel as possible in hopes of quickly ending the investigation — or at least its focus on Mr. Trump.
The belligerent, handlebar mustache twirling Cobb would seem an unlikely advocate for “give the special counsel what he wants,” but at least one member of Trump’s legal team seems to realize that the reflexive effort to cover-up, distort, and deny on every issue has turned into Trump’s biggest weakness. Even if Trump’s allies have managed to keep the most incriminating information either hidden or masked as “jokes,” that effort to cover-up has become a primary focus for Mueller’s team.
Meanwhile, White House counsel Don McGahn reportedly frets that giving Mueller what he wants would constitute a violation of the never-well-defined “executive privilege.”
The friction escalated in recent days after Mr. Cobb was overheard by a reporter for The New York Times discussing the dispute during a lunchtime conversation at a popular Washington steakhouse. Mr. Cobb was heard talking about a White House lawyer he deemed “a McGahn spy” and saying Mr. McGahn had “a couple documents locked in a safe” that he seemed to suggest he wanted access to.
McGahn has other reasons than boundaries that are purely theoretical and unlikely to be supported in court.
... Mr. McGahn himself is a likely witness. Mr. Mueller wants to interview him about Mr. Comey’s dismissal and the White House’s handling of questions about a June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer said to be offering incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.
Mr. McGahn is willing to meet with investigators and answer questions, but his lawyer, Bill Burck, has asked Mr. Cobb to tell him whether the president wants to assert either attorney-client or executive privilege, according to lawyers close to the case.
Lawyer McGahn is reluctant to be too cooperative, because that’s the advice of his lawyer. And while Cobb may be managing Trump’s personal defense now, that role used to belong to Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, who withdrew from most of his White House functions after he hired an attorney in June.
Obstruction has been a key part of the special counsel’s work since at least the end of May when Mueller’s team began questioning White House officials about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. Trump’s attorneys have reportedly met directly with Mueller to dispute the idea that firing Comey was obstruction of justice.
Lawyers for Donald Trump have met several times with special counsel Robert Mueller in recent months and submitted memos arguing that the president didn’t obstruct justice by firing former FBI chief James Comey and calling into question Mr. Comey’s reliability as a potential witness, people familiar with the matter said.
But the obstruction argument moved into high gear after Donald Trump had crafted an excuse for Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian officials—an excuse that was clearly a lie.
Flying home from Germany on July 8 aboard Air Force One, Trump personally dictated a statement in which Trump Jr. said that he and the Russian lawyer had “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children” when they met in June 2016, according to multiple people with knowledge of the deliberations.
Between firing Comey and hand-crafting the cover-up for the Trump Tower meeting between Trump’s executive campaign staff and representatives of the Russian government that had come on promises of conspiring to provide damaging information against Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump’s obstruction effort wasn’t silent. It was during that period that Trump made his accusations that President Obama had “wiretapped” Trump Tower, and the Trump White House worked with House Intelligence committee chair Devin Nunes to derail Capitol Hill investigations with charges of illegal surveillance and unmasking—none of which turned out to be true.