“For several weeks Ty Cobb has been discussing his retirement and last week he let Chief of Staff Kelly know he would retire at the end of the month,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement confirming Cobb’s departure.
Flood’s decision to join the White House was confirmed by his law firm, the Washington-D.C.-based Williams & Connolly LLP.
“We are disappointed to lose him to the White House, but we fully appreciate Emmet’s strong commitment to public service,” said Williams & Connolly LLP Chairman Dane Butswinkas in a statement. “The White House will be fortunate to have his experienced counsel.”
Flood’s replacement of Cobb was first reported by the New York Times.
Trump has reportedly been discussing the shakeup with confidantes for weeks, although the president has denied doing so. Cobb was the lead White House lawyer dealing with requests from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
“It has been an honor to serve the country in this capacity at the White House,” Cobb told the Times. “I wish everybody well moving forward.”
One White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity said Cobb’s departure did not indicate a crisis — or at least a crisis beyond the daily one. “A normal chaos day,” the official said.
Cobb has repeatedly said that Trump will eventually agree to meet with Mueller, who is investigating possible Russian interference in the 2016 election, even though Trump appears to have soured on the possibility of an interview. Cobb told ABC News Wednesday that a meeting between Trump and Mueller is “certainly not off the table and people are working hard to make decisions and work towards an interview.”
His departure, however, leaves the president’s legal team without a person holding a security clearance to deal with the sensitive information in the Russia investigation and negotiations with Mueller. Jay Sekulow, the lead lawyer on Trump’s personal legal team, is still waiting for his clearance, according to Bloomberg.
The White House did not return a request for comment about how long it might take Flood to receive one and whether a lack of clearances hurt the legal team’s ability to operate.
Before becoming a partner at the litigation firm Williams & Connolly LLP, which also represents Hillary Clinton, the high-profile Flood spent two years in the Bush administration’s White House Counsel’s office, representing former President George W. Bush in “executive privilege-related disputes,” according to a statement on his firm’s website. He also represented former Vice President Dick Cheney in a lawsuit brought by former CIA agent Valerie Plame.
The Times reported in mid-March that Trump was considering adding Flood to the White House team, saying that his main role would be assisting with the president’s Justice Department dealings. Flood reportedly passed on an opportunity to join the White House team last summer.
Trump blasted that Times story in a tweet at the time, claiming that he was “very happy” with his legal team, which then also included John Dowd before the lawyer’s subsequent resignation on March 22.
Amanda Terkel and Shirish Date contributed reporting.