TRANSCRIPT: Former Trump White House attorney Ty Cobb's interview on ABC News' 'The Investigation' podcast

A transcript of Ty Cobb's interview as it appears in the latest podcast episode.

ByABC News
March 5, 2019, 3:02 AM

Former Trump White House attorney Ty Cobb sat down for a wide-ranging interview for the latest episode of “The Investigation," a new ABC News podcast focused on the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller. A transcript of Cobb's interview as it appears in the episode of the podcast follows here:

ABC NEWS' KYRA PHILLIPS: Welcome to "The Investigation." I’m Kyra Phillips. My co-host Chris Vlasto, on assignment this week. So I’m joined by two members of our investigative team, Katherine Faulders who covers all things White House and the Hill, and John Santucci. John’s been covering the Trump’s since the campaign. Joining us today, is former White House lawyer, Ty Cobb. Ty, so great to have you with us.

TY COBB: Thanks for having me.

ABC NEWS' JOHN SANTUCCI: I think a lot of people-- have Googled you, have looked into you. And the first thing that they sorta see is someone that should be playing baseball. (LAUGH) And that's not you. I mean you know, you're in good shape, Ty. But that's really not what people think about when they think of Ty Cobb the lawyer. So, there’s a family history there, right?

COBB: He was a distant cousin of my grandfather. So.

SANTUCCI: You've been around D.C. forever. I mean, you've worked on Capitol Hill. You've been in private practice. Just what we're seeing right now, did you ever think that this would be something that you would tackle in your career?

COBB: No. No, so this was not something that, you know, I raised my hand for or sought out in particular. I was contacted about representing the president individually at one point. The firm wouldn't take that matter on. We were representing the state of Hawaii at the time in connection with the travel ban. So there was a conflict. And, then, I was asked to come in house which you know, required a significant restructuring on my banking practices. But it was the-- in essence, it was my background that caused me to take that job. I grew up in a small town in western Kansas. My dad was a naval fighter pilot. You know, I think if the president asks you that this was-- this was a very important task. It was very important to do it honorably, very important to get it right legally. And, then, you reach the if not me, who question. And if the answer is Michael Cohen, you know, I'm proud for the country that I took the assignment.

ABC NEWS' KATHERINE FAULDERS: You always say during your time at the White House you represented the presidency not the president specifically. During your time there and, of course, after now that you've left, what surprised you the most about your job working in the White House?

COBB: So, the distinction about representing the presidency and not the president is not a dodge. I mean, it's not-- I'm not embarrassed, you know, for having worked there. And certainly the president, himself, is the White House de facto. So I really did work for him. But my legal obligations are-- were to the institution. Same much like Don McGahn. You know, the-- in that role under the under the law and under the Constitution the duty is to the institution not to the individual. That's why the president has individual counsel in connection with the investigation.

PHILLIPS: But I think that-- it's fair to say Trump is a very unusual president. He's redefined politics as we know it. This is a man who has had a number of advisors that have become convicted felons. There are numerous investigations underway. There are numerous cabinet secretaries that have left. So what is going on in that White House? Is it Trump, the man, that is creating this?

COBB: Well, my first response to that is, you know, I was there in a professional capacity. I had a specific role. I tried to adhere to that and left the psychology to others. But, you know, he is a very direct-- forceful-- presence. He wants to get stuff done. He hates obstacles. And he reacts strongly in the face of obstacles to try to move them out of the way or find somebody who will move them out of the way for him so he can do things. It's a challenging environment. And it's not for everybody. But it was-- it was a fascinating task.

SANTUCCI: Compared to other places you've worked, I mean, many people say that-- Donald Trump thrives in chaos. He likes having-- a small group of people around. What was, like, a day to day like in that White House?

COBB: I think every-- I think every White House employee has a different experience. He has an individual relationship with, you know, virtually all the employees. It's not-- you can't really, they're not really similar. In my case I didn't have any difficulty getting face time. I mean, originally when I was hired, I was a direct report to the president. You know, I had no other reporting responsibilities. You know, that changed, you know, over time with-- General Kelly, you know, where-- I would still, often times, have face time with the president.

SANTUCCI: When you first got the job, though, I just wanna read you this quote you gave National Law Journal. You said, quote, "I have rocks in my head and steel balls." (LAUGH) Is that a prerequisite?

PHILLIPS: Are the rocks still there?

COBB: I think-- I think the rocks may have been ground to sand. But I can-- (LAUGH) I can assure you the rest of the quote is accurate. So. (LAUGH)

FAULDERS: Talk to us a little bit about the strategy-- your strategy there with the legal team while you were there and how it related to what the president was saying publicly, specifically, the tweets. We reported that time said that was a sense of frustration for many in the White House and the legal time including you.

COBB: Yeah. So I had certain conditions to taking the position. I didn't you know, as I say, I wasn't begging for it and, you know run to the White House and offer my services. But I was honored to be asked. The president was very generous to me. The issues about-- working with my staff, they were complicated because there was such chaos on the first day that I was there. I mean, within the first 15 minutes of my, you know, swearing in, Kelly replaces Reince. And Scaramucci gets fired. So I was a footnote on day one. And it was you know and it really never let up after that.

SANTUCCI: That was really your first day, Ty?

COBB: Yes.


COBB: Work-- working with my-- working to build my legal team was probably the most difficult chore that I had because I didn't have any support, initially, from the White House counsel's office. McGahn had recused himself and his entire office from the Mueller investigation even though they still handled the congressional piece of it which I did not handle. And, then I had to go around, basically, hat in hand to find lawyers to, you know, help work with me to assimilate documents, produce documents, review documents.

PHILLIPS: And you're the one that made the decision Mueller was going to get all documents.

COBB: Well, the president made that decision. I was the one that advised it. But the president did make the decision. And it was—

PHILLIPS: And he agreed with that. He said, "Okay. Yes. We'll give Mueller everything."

COBB: Yes. The president, you know, I mean, there's you know, you read a lot about, you know, why does-- why does the president act guilty? And I always point to the fact that I understand the question. I understand you know, impetus for the question. But in reality, this is a president who, you know, did not fight the special counsel in terms of evidentiary request. You know, all the witnesses testified voluntarily. And the documents were produced voluntarily. Now, having said that, you know, it doesn't mean that they weren't heavily negotiated. I mean, keep in mind that the White House produced, you know, 21,000 plus or minus 1,000 documents, you know, as opposed to the campaign which produced one, two. So we were in very, you know, extensive negotiations with the special counsel in terms of what we would provide. And we worked and it was a collaboration. I mean, I can't be critical. I never had a bad interaction with Mueller or his staff.

FAULDERS: You said you never had a bad interaction with Robert Mueller in your negotiations. Well another former lawyer who you're familiar with John Dowd who you worked very closely with. Well, he was on this podcast and told Kyra, he described the Mueller investigation as, quote, "One of the greatest frauds this country's ever seen." Would you disagree with that?

COBB: Yeah. I don't share that view.

SANTUCCI: What do you think of Bob Mueller?

COBB: I think Bob Mueller's an American hero. I think Bob Mueller's a guy that you know even though he came from an, arguably, privileged background, you know, has a backbone of steel. He walked into a firefight in Vietnam to pull out one of his injured colleagues and was appropriately honored for that. I've known him for 30 years as a prosecutor and a friend. And I think the-- I think the world of Bob Mueller. He is a very deliberate guy. And he-- but he's also a class act. And a very-- justice oriented person.

FAULDERS: Was there anybody who, you know, that you can think of that the president-- didn't want to testify?

COBB: No. The president was very clear from day one that, you know, anybody who was asked, you know, should be encouraged to do so voluntarily.

SANTUCCI: Do you see a world that we're gonna get 30,000 pages? Or this is gonna be a two-page summary, here are all the indictments I did over the last 21 months. Have fun.

COBB: I think it'll be shorter rather than longer 'cause it's a pretty specific approach. And—

SANTUCCI: Do you think we learn something new in it though?

COBB: I don't think-- I don't believe so. But at the same time, you know, what do I know? I mean, it's conceivable. On the other hand, you know, the special counsel has done an effective job, for his purposes in terms of, you know, sentencing memorandas, speaking indictments, you know, laying out, you know, the facts as they, as they develop. You know, the Russian hackers, you know, there's a lot of detail there. You know, they look more hapless than coordinated. But at the same time you know it's highly detailed. And there's no link to Trump or the campaign. The same thing with Manafort, Manafort-- you know, they just filed an 800-page sentencing memorandum. And in 800 pages, there's no reference to, you know, collusion.

SANTUCCI: So, but you seem to have the feeling though-- that you have Cummings. You have Schiff. Everyone thinking that, you know, Bob Mueller's gonna deliver the silver bullet to Donald Trump. You don't buy that?

COBB: I don't buy that. But I don't think Schiff buys it either. I mean, as you know, as you have seen recently, Schiff has tacked to, you know, basically, saying, "Mueller didn't look into enough things. You know, and we need to, you know, be fishing around to try to find, you know, other possible avenues that, you know, through which to get to the president."

SANTUCCI: Do you believe, based on everything you've known, that there is any sort of supporting evidence that congress could seek to go after Trump? Could they try to impeach him for any crime?

COBB: Well, you know, there are famous quotes out there that, you know, an impeachable offense is anything 218 congressman agree on. I think I read a piece today about, you know, that it was unlikely that Pelosi might let her conference go that direction just because of the political headaches it might cause. But I think we've seen it clear that, you know, Cummings and Schiff and others, Nadler-- all of whom, by the way called Comey unqualified or troubling or asked for his resignation at one point-- that all these people are, basically, hell bent on issuing a lot of subpoenas to get to the administration and perpetuate this investigation.

FAULDERS: There were times, though, when the relationship was strained wouldn't you say, like, the president was calling the investigation a witch hunt. And you were actually advocating for transparency with Mueller. You have a good relationship with Mueller.

COBB: Well, keep in mind-- so in my first-- in my first nine-and-a-half months out of ten-and-a-half that I was able to prevent the president from going on the attack against Mueller. It wasn't really until, you know, Dowd sent out, you know, a critical tweet of Mueller and Rudy, you know, joined the team that, you know, the onslaught. I mean, I think the president felt unleashed. He's found this very frustrating. It's particularly frustrated him in foreign affairs. He doesn't like the timing. He, you know, wants this over. But it's never gonna be over. I mean, this is gonna go for this will go through 2020. And if the president's reelected, it'll go beyond that.

SANTUCCI: And Rudy Giuliani, as you just mentioned there, has a very different approach than you do. Is he serving the president well?

COBB: Well, keep in mind, he doesn't have my job. And--

SANTUCCI: But-- but he's part of the legal team, Ty.

COBB: But no. I mean, so-- but well no. So yeah. But I wasn't. I was part of-- I was there for the White House. Rudy is there to represent the individual. But keep in mind, that, you know, the that you know, you can criticize the strategy. It wouldn't have been my strategy. You know, I don't feel the same way about Mueller. I don't feel the investigation is a witch hunt. I wish it had happened on a quicker timetable. But it didn't. And that's you know, and that's unfortunate. But at the same time, it's not a real criticism of the special counsel that on the timing because there were a lot of surprises. A lot of things, you know, distracted him from focusing on the president, from Manafort's decade old issues to, you know, the Papadopoulos's of the world and, you know, the Carter Page's of the world and the Roger Stone's of the world. So it's not my view that it's a witch hunt. Rudy and the president have been effective in a way that, you know, would not have been preferable for me. But they have ratcheted up the public's concerns about the investigation and its legitimacy. I object to that approach. But it's his choice. He's the Ppesident. And it's what-- it's what Clinton did to Ken Starr.

SANTUCCI: And you've said, you know, you were the White House side of this. So you know the White House. You were in there. Were there people in the White House not serving the president well?

COBB: I think—

SANTUCCI: He has said he wanted to clean shop, wanted to prune out some of the bad ones.

PHILLIPS: And I mentioned a lot of the advisors and secretaries that have already left.

COBB: Yeah. I think it'd be-- it'd be disingenuous to suggest that the president doesn't need a better HR team and that, you know, some of the people that have been chosen and put in significant roles have not performed as he may have hoped or as voters may have hoped.

SANTUCCI: We're counting down. We thought the report would be coming last week. It's not here yet. Who knows when it's coming?

COBB: Well, I think that-- I think the fact that-- I think the fact that it didn't drop this week is classic Bob Mueller. You know, unlike the democrats on the hill who have this Cohen show while, you know, 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 (LAUGH) in the past-- I think that's shameful. And I think Mueller would not drop this report with the president out of the country.

PHILLIPS: How soon do you think it will drop?

COBB: I would suspect certainly no later than mid-March.

PHILLIPS: Ty Cobb, great having you with us.

COBB: My pleasure. Thank you all very much.

"The Investigation" is a podcast series offering an in-depth look at special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath, analyzing the potential fallout and political consequences. Hosted by ABC News correspondent Kyra Phillips and the ABC News investigative team, led by Senior Executive Producer Chris Vlasto. "The Investigation" is available for free on Apple Podcasts (via iPhone), Google Podcasts (via Android), Spotify (via smartphone and desktop), Stitcher (via smartphone and desktop), TuneIn (via smartphone and desktop), the ABC News app (via your smartphone) or your favorite podcast player.

PHOTO: The Investigation from ABC News
The Investigation from ABC News

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