Meet Trump's new lawyer in the Russia probe

After former White House lawyer Ty Cobb left his position, President Trump hired former President Clinton's impeachment lawyer Emmet Flood to join the White House legal team.

Posted: May 4, 2018 12:25 PM
Updated: May 4, 2018 12:39 PM

With one of former President Bill Clinton's impeachment-era lawyers headed back to the White House, this time to help President Donald Trump cope with Robert Mueller's investigation, it's worth asking: What can Trump learn from the Clinton White House's misadventures?

The departure of Trump lawyer Ty Cobb, followed by news of the hiring of Emmet Flood, could signal a new and less friendly tack from Trump's ever-evolving legal team, which has mostly played nice with the special counsel. The President, meanwhile, routinely dismisses the inquiry as a "WITCH HUNT."

Clinton, of course, didn't have access to a smartphone with a Twitter app, so this -- for about a thousand reasons -- is hardly an apples to apples comparison. But his and Trump's fates could be merging on at least one front, as Mueller appears closer to pushing, perhaps via subpoena, for Trump to testify under oath.

So with Clinton's case in mind, what's this president to do?

1. Get his story straight — because the questions are a-comin'

As CNN legal analyst and Supreme Court guru Joan Biskupic wrote on Wednesday, past precedent suggests that, one way or another, Trump will be subject to questioning (even if, for now at least, the prospect is very much open for debate).

A look at the outline of Mueller's potential queries, as reported by The New York Times on Monday, suggests Trump's current tactics -- yelling on Twitter being at the top of the list -- won't be of much use when and if he's confronted with some very direct, specific asks.

Clinton, when under oath with special counsel Ken Starr, tried to slip similarly narrow questions with a round of now-infamous riffs of legalese. See: his memorable disquisition on the definition of "is."

2. Don't (try to) be too clever

Simple one, here.

Though no stranger to legal proceedings, Trump doesn't possess Clinton's legal expertise (for all the good it did him). He isn't going to talk his way out of this. He could, should he try, talk himself into something way worse -- much like Clinton did. Clinton's tortured denials are now among the most-remembered lines of his presidency.

Trump has already taken one cue from Clinton and denied denied denied there was any collusion between his campaign and Russia. If there is, in fact, "NO COLLUSION" or otherwise untoward or illegal behavior to conceal, and only potentially embarrassing political details, the applicable lesson from the Clinton saga is: Either be truthful -- or quiet.

3. Not on camera...

There is next-to-no shot that Trump is going to come out looking good, by anyone's standards, after a few hours under the gun with Mueller.

Again, Clinton learned that lesson firsthand. The transcripts of his grand jury testimony would have been bad enough, but the tape of it was the real shocker. Clinton looked anything but slick. He looked tired and defeated and sounded, well, like he was lying.

There's a very good and probably correct argument to be made that, in the current climate, the public reaction wouldn't compare to what it was two decades ago, no matter what Trump says. That is, of course, barring some revelation about a particular 2013 visit to Moscow. And while people might be (too) used to Trump's lying, there's a difference -- in how it might be perceived -- between his triumphantly volunteering blatant untruths and offering them defensively, after being cornered by a skilled prosecutor.

4. Make peace with the 2016 election results

This would be a good time for Trump to internalize that, no, he didn't win the popular vote and, for his own sake, that it's fine: Everyone knew the rules going in.

Why, a sane person might ask, would this matter?

The answer, sane person, is that so much of Trump's anger -- and rationalizing and, ultimately, false claims that millions of undocumented immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton -- has been rooted in his frustration at the suggestion that someone, or some other country's intelligence apparatus, should be credited for delivering his election win. Being honest won't cost Trump anything here. His base thinks he's the ultimate political iconoclast and that this whole exercise is bogus. His opponents think he's a fraud, or worse, and aren't going to be disabused of that idea by what would likely be a transparently misleading answer.

Telling Mueller the truth about his campaign's contacts with Russia won't change any of it. Lying as an ego booster won't either -- except that it could further endanger the presidency he fought so hard to claim.

5. Don't blink

Clinton ended his second term with his popularity soaring. Is it likely Trump will follow the same trajectory? No. Do we know anything, really, for sure? Definitely not.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312521

Reported Deaths: 5498
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion42641849
Lake27152455
Allen18010298
Elkhart17177221
St. Joseph16799229
Hamilton13011167
Vanderburgh9751120
Tippecanoe858727
Porter827986
Johnson6389165
Hendricks6098157
Vigo608384
Monroe536750
Clark515077
Madison5060122
Delaware4905103
LaPorte465595
Kosciusko462339
Howard344277
Warrick325672
Bartholomew316863
Floyd316277
Wayne307770
Cass299931
Marshall299144
Grant272550
Noble255046
Hancock253852
Henry247537
Boone244554
Dubois237931
Dearborn219030
Jackson215534
Morgan210843
Knox187819
Gibson186925
Shelby182155
Clinton180321
DeKalb177831
Lawrence177648
Adams168222
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Randolph124519
Wells124429
White123222
Clay122523
Posey122116
Jefferson118816
Scott109020
Greene102653
Jay99013
Sullivan96416
Starke92021
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Fulton84518
Spencer8378
Perry82521
Fountain7798
Washington7527
Franklin69927
Carroll68613
Orange67328
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Owen6087
Tipton57627
Parke5706
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Pike50919
Pulaski39515
Martin3585
Brown3424
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Union2702
Switzerland2575
Warren2382
Ohio2317
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 382743

Reported Deaths: 6274
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin51161671
Cuyahoga37222743
Hamilton30493372
Montgomery20518236
Butler15199148
Lucas14566417
Summit13933327
Stark9193206
Warren841976
Mahoning7530300
Lake710067
Lorain6690106
Clermont593651
Delaware572537
Licking564577
Trumbull5584147
Fairfield554464
Greene538066
Clark5218101
Allen494989
Marion476759
Medina471657
Wood4598107
Miami437568
Pickaway404048
Portage358972
Columbiana357698
Tuscarawas342667
Richland328539
Wayne327394
Mercer296047
Muskingum252510
Hancock245940
Ross244559
Auglaize236435
Darke232560
Erie230268
Putnam229449
Ashtabula228354
Geauga211851
Scioto200616
Union19668
Shelby194017
Lawrence193039
Athens19134
Seneca182919
Belmont170229
Madison163119
Sandusky157729
Preble156521
Huron155519
Defiance144823
Holmes140439
Logan133517
Knox131718
Fulton128726
Jefferson128613
Crawford126817
Washington125227
Ottawa124530
Clinton109115
Williams10799
Ashland107825
Highland103718
Brown10135
Henry101323
Hardin99719
Champaign9825
Van Wert97318
Jackson96212
Fayette92717
Morrow9202
Guernsey89314
Coshocton85215
Perry82912
Adams80313
Pike7661
Gallia76513
Wyandot73217
Paulding66511
Hocking64516
Noble62224
Carroll48810
Meigs39612
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Vinton2246
Harrison2193
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