President Donald Trump and special counsel Robert Mueller are on a collision course — one that appeared close to happening last month but now might just take place under more hostile conditions.
Multiple reports now suggest Mueller will subpoena Trump, setting up a court battle for the ages and one that will test the powers of the United States presidency.
Preemptively, Trump has hired Emmet T. Floyd, a District-based lawyer who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment.
The New York Times reported that the hire signals that the White House sees no immediate end to its legal problems and is girding for a combative relationship with a new Congress after the midterm elections.
Flood replaces Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer who persuaded Trump to cooperate with the special counsel for the first year of its investigation.
Cobb assured the president that doing so would bring the investigation to a swift end and that hasn’t happened while Mueller’s investigation isn’t likely to conclude soon, the Times reported.
Meanwhile, the newspaper reported that Trump’s advisers see a new peril on the horizon: If Democrats win control of the House, they would have the authority to issue subpoenas or even convene impeachment hearings.
“Emmet Flood will be joining the White House staff to represent the president and the administration against the Russia witch hunt,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement, adopting the president’s derisive label for the special counsel investigation. “Ty Cobb, a friend of the president, who has done a terrific job, will be retiring at the end of the month.”
Flood is expected to take a more adversarial approach than Cobb, who voluntarily turned over White House documents to Mueller, according to multiple reports.
The Times reported Cobb credited that cooperation with preventing a protracted — and futile — subpoena fight that would have hobbled the administration.
But the strategy frustrated White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II and some in the West Wing who said Cobb was too willing to acquiesce to Mueller’s requests.
“Cobb’s radical theory of the case, to waive executive privilege from the very beginning, was not simply wrong. It was reckless,” Stephen K. Bannon, the former White House strategist, told the Times.
Bannon said Cobb had not resigned but had been fired, after repeatedly predicting the end of an investigation that never came.
“Unfortunately, you cannot undo the serious damage he has caused the president and the presidency,” Bannon said.
Cobb responded: “I don’t pay attention to Steve Bannon. I’ve seen all his documents.”
Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York who is a longtime confidant of the president’s, has come aboard, pledging to negotiate an interview for Trump with the special counsel.
Giuliani said Mueller had no authority to subpoena the president, an argument that appeared to signal a combative approach, the newspaper reported.
But he also did not foreclose the idea of an interview, if the topics were limited and the discussion did not last more than two-and-a-half hours.
He objected to some of Mueller’s proposed questions as “amateur psychiatry.”
“How the hell can someone remember what they were feeling two years ago?” Giuliani said. “It was time to make a change and the new guy, Emmet, will add a tremendous amount of experience, having been involved in representing President Clinton.”