Stephen K. Bannon, former White House Chief Strategist, Trump 2016 campaign CEO and Breitbart News executive, was ruthless in his assessment on the reasons behind the recent upheaval on the president’s legal team, in comments to me on Wednesday night.
Bannon singled out now-ousted Trump lawyer Ty Cobb for unsparing criticism, saying Special Counsel Robert Mueller ran laps around him.
“Cobb completely misread Mueller, the President and the process,” Bannon said in an email. “He shattered precedent by agreeing to waive executive privilege from the outset, with no negotiations on scope of the special counsel’s mandate.”
In recent days, Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and top Trump campaign surrogate, along with the Clinton impeachment lawyer Emmet Flood have joined Trump’s legal team.
“Rudy and Emmet Flood must now do emergency triage while buying time to regroup,” said Bannon. “And oh yeah, it took Rudy all of one meeting with Mueller to understand what a debacle Cobb created.”
Cobb, externally, had been the subject of a series of minor embarrassments in Washington, spotted at airports and restaurants loudly talking about the president’s case–onlookers then tweeted out what he said.
Internally, says Bannon, Cobb’s tenure was even more rocky than was previously known.
In addition to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, President Trump is also catching fire from the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York, which was once headed by Giuliani.
Giuliani appeared on Trump consigliere and Fox News host Sean Hannity’s primetime cable television show Wednesday, and gave an extraordinary interview in which he conceded some presidential knowledge of a payment from Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen to the adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Giuliani said Trump paid Cohen back — new information as of Wednesday night.
In a separate controversy last month, Hannity was also revealed to have been one of Cohen’s clients. Hannity plays down the relationship, arguing any legal advice given was done so informally.
Conservative Christian lawyer and Fox News personality Jay Sekulow has also long served Trump on this case, at times essentially managing the caseload alone, especially after attorney John Dowd left in March. He remains on the legal team with Giuliani and Flood.
But Flood’s hiring Wednesday was met with great intrigue. Trump has often been lambasted in the press and by Democratic critics as being too difficult and too controversial a client to attract top legal talent to represent him. Flood’s ascension has changed that, even for many of Trump’s opponents on the left.
“Fasten your seat belts folks,” tweeted top Democratic lawyer Norm Eisen on Wednesday. “It’s war. I know Emmet—in fact, he briefed me during the Bush to Obama transition when I was coming in as special counsel & he was headed out. He’s one of the very best. This will be a fight for the ages.”
Eisen has been highly critical of Giuliani’s interview with Hannity, however, suggesting Flood will have him sacked over it.
Knives out in Washington, as usual.