WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump’s Russia probe lawyer, Ty Cobb, previously represented billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, according to previously overlooked media reports and emails shared with HuffPost. The kingdom unexpectedly arrested the prince along with more than a dozen other prominent Saudis over the weekend in a move observers interpreted as a power play by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Cobb’s past work for Alwaleed, whom Trump has called “dopey” on Twitter, could cause new awkwardness between the Trump administration and the Saudi government — and perhaps between Trump and his own lawyer.
Trump has close ties to Saudi Arabia and Prince Mohammed, the Saudi crown prince said to be behind the arrests, including Alwaleed’s. Several weeks ago, White House adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner paid a secret visit to the kingdom and spent significant time with Prince Mohammed, according to Politico and The Washington Post.
The U.S. president pushed the kingdom to use the New York Stock Exchange for the upcoming IPO of a portion of its national oil company, Aramco, in a tweet Saturday just hours before the crackdown. He also praised the kingdom’s policies in a call with Saudi King Salman, the crown prince’s father, the same day.
Cobb spent more than three decades working on white-collar cases before joining Trump’s team. He resigned from his longtime firm, Hogan Lovells, in July. At the time, business news service ALM Media reported that Cobb had previously worked for members of the Saudi royal family, citing a Hogan Lovells page that now appears to have been taken down.
A 2012 Business Insider story by reporter Nicholas Carlson was more specific. The story said that Cobb had threatened to sue an American who had attempted a lawsuit against Alwaleed for allegedly threatening him with beheading and having him detained at gunpoint while he worked for the prince’s son.
Emails from Mark Mazo, another partner at Hogan Lovells, to Toronto-based businessman Alan Bender, who was representing a woman who claimed she had a secret marriage with Alwaleed, provide further evidence of Cobb’s connection to the prince.
“I was able to arrange for my partner, Ty Cobb, to join our meeting,” Mazo wrote in a message to Bender dated Sept. 18, 2013. “Ty is a senior partner who has worked extensively for HRH over the years on highly sensitive and confidential matters, and who has been read into this matter from the beginning. You may recall that Ty joined us on at least one of our calls last December. His commitment to confidentiality is absolute, which is why HRH trusts him.”
HRH, or his royal highness, appears to be Mazo’s preferred way to refer to Alwaleed, according to two other messages Bender provided to HuffPost. On Aug. 21, 2014, Mazo wrote, “Prince Alwaleed is on vacation now, but he will be conducting business meetings in Paris next week. HRH has just confirmed that he would like to schedule a meeting with you in Paris on the afternoon of Wednesday, August 27.”
An ealier message from Mazo, dated Dec. 17, 2012, also mentioned Cobb: “We will be joined by one of my senior partners, Ty Cobb, whose commitment to maintain confidentiality is beyond question.”
Cobb told HuffPost there was nothing he could share about his work for Alwaleed. “I am ethically precluded from confirming or denying alleged former clients and specific matters under almost all circumstances,” he wrote in a Monday email.
Mazo and a Hogan Lovells spokesman did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. Cobb, Mazo and Hogan Lovells do not appear in the U.S. government’s database of registered foreign agents, but that’s not necessarily unusual: The law exempts attorneys involved in legal proceedings from registration requirements, Joshua Rosenstein of the firm Sandler Reiff told HuffPost earlier this year.
A public relations representative for the investment company Alwaleed chairs told HuffPost he was unable to comment on the prince’s relationship with Cobb.
Trump has publicly squabbled with Alwaleed, a powerful investor who helped him during business flops in the 1990s. After Trump announced a travel ban that affected a number of Muslim-majority nations, the prince called Trump ”a disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America” on Twitter.
On Monday, the prince’s fate in the Trump-friendly kingdom remained unclear.
Paul Blumenthal contributed reporting.