WASHINGTON — President Trump has hired Emmet T. Flood, the veteran Washington lawyer who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment, to replace Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer who has taken the lead in dealing with the special counsel investigation and has decided to retire, according to two people briefed on the matter.
In a phone interview, Mr. Cobb, who is 67, said he informed the president weeks ago that he wanted to retire. He said he planned to stay at the White House, likely through the end of the month, to help Mr. Flood transition into the new job.
“It has been an honor to serve the country in this capacity at the White House,” he said. “I wish everybody well moving forward.”
Mr. Flood is expected to take a more adversarial approach to the investigation than Mr. Cobb, who had pushed Mr. Trump to strike a cooperative tone. Mr. Flood initially spoke with the White House last summer about working for the president, but the talks ultimately fell apart because Mr. Flood did not want to deal with Mr. Trump’s longtime New York lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, who was overseeing the president’s dealings with the special counsel at the time.
Mr. Flood’s hiring has not been made final, the people cautioned, noting Mr. Trump’s practice of reneging on personnel decisions after they are reported in the press.
It was not clear what prompted Mr. Flood to sign on. The president’s legal team for the special counsel investigation has been marked by turnover and uncertain strategy, complicated by a client liable to dismiss his lawyers’ advice. That factor prompted Mr. Trump’s lead lawyer on the case, John Dowd, to quit this year. Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York who is a longtime confidant of the president, has come on board pledging to negotiate an interview for the president with the special counsel.
Emerging as part of those negotiations, a set of questions from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, shows that he wanted to quiz Mr. Trump on an exhaustive array of subjects, including his contacts with Russia as well as his mind-set leading up to and during a number of acts that could construe an attempt to obstruct the inquiry itself.
Mr. Flood was part of a team of lawyers who represented Mr. Clinton during his impeachment proceedings. Though he did not have a high-profile role, Mr. Flood did attend the Senate’s deposition of Mr. Clinton’s lawyer and confidant, Vernon E. Jordan Jr.
Mr. Flood was also the lead lawyer in the White House Counsel’s Office during George W. Bush’s second term in dealing with congressional investigations, including the examination of the Bush administration’s decision to dismiss seven United States attorneys. In private practice, Mr. Flood represented former Vice President Dick Cheney.