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Cobb out, Clinton impeachment lawyer in, as Trump shakes up legal team

(CNN) — White House lawyer Ty Cobb is leaving his position, the administration said Wednesday, the latest official change to President Donald Trump’s legal team as it adopts a more adversarial posture toward the special counsel’s investigation.

Cobb has been discussing his retirement for several weeks and let chief of staff John Kelly know he would be retiring at the end of May, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

“I’ve done what I come to do in terms of managing the White House response to the special counsel request,” Cobb told CNN. “I’m extremely grateful to the President and Chief Kelly for the opportunity to serve my country.”

The New York Times first reported the news.

A source familiar with Cobb’s departure said Emmet Flood, who represented then-President Bill Clinton during his impeachment process in the late 1990s, is expected to join Trump’s legal team at the White House.

The source said Cobb, a former federal prosecutor, who joined Trump’s legal team in July 2017, had been clashing with the President in recent weeks over Trump’s combative posture with the special counsel’s investigation.

“Ty was uncomfortable with the Mueller tweets,” the source said. He was not going to be “part of a mud-slinging campaign,” the source added.

Cobb had tried for weeks to counsel the President against threatening the Mueller investigation, the source said, adding that the lawyer made it clear on multiple occasions with the President and other members of the legal team that he “can’t go down that path.”

Trump has intensified his public attacks on Mueller’s probe in recent weeks. Earlier Wednesday, the President suggested that questions by Mueller’s team about whether he obstructed justice amount to a “setup & trap.”

Showdown looms

The shakeup of Trump’s legal team comes as his lawyers prepare for a legal showdown with Mueller, sources familiar with their thinking have told CNN.

Trump’s legal team is bracing for the dramatic possibility that Mueller would subpoena the President, setting up a collision that could force a lengthy court fight and test the legal limits of the President’s power all the way up to the Supreme Court.

Mueller has raised the possibility of a presidential subpoena in at least one meeting, according to two sources. But some of the President’s legal advisers are gambling that Mueller would not go that far.

Shortly before the news of his departure broke, Cobb spoke with ABC News and said Trump sitting for an interview with Mueller is “not off the table.” He also said it is “an open question” if Mueller could compel Trump to testify.

Latest change in legal team

Wednesday’s developments are the latest of several recent changes in Trump’s legal team.

Last month, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani joined Trump’s outside legal team and said at the time that he would communicate with Mueller to bring the probe to an end. Sources told CNN last week that Giuliani met with Mueller to discuss a potential presidential interview.

Trump in March announced he had brought on lawyers Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, but his lawyer, Jay Sekulow, acknowledged in a statement that conflicts prevented the pair from joining Trump’s team.

Their hiring came as several attorneys were said to decline joining Trump’s legal team. Among those who turned down the offer was Flood.

Trump previously denied the reported shakeup was in consideration, tweeting “wrong” in March in response to a story from the Times that Trump was looking to add Flood to his team dealing with the Mueller probe.