dibrova/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump is shaking up his outside legal team that is charged primarily with responding to the federal probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
John Dowd, who joined the legal team in mid-June, is replacing Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, as lead attorney representing the president, Dowd confirmed to ABC News.
The newest lawyer in the group, Ty Cobb, will take the lead in managing the team’s external response to the Russia probe.
Mark Corallo, who was spokesman for Trump’s legal team, resigned Thursday.
Dowd emphasized that even though he is moving into another role as the team’s leader, the group of lawyers serving as the president’s outside counsel is a close-knit team.
“We don’t decide anything without talking to one another,” Dowd said.
Dowd is a longtime friend of Cobb, whom Trump hired as White House special counsel the same week it was revealed that Donald Trump. Jr. had a meeting with a Russian lawyer in hopes of attaining opposition research on Hillary Clinton.
Kasowitz will remain on Trump’s legal team and continue to represent Trump but in a lesser role, two sources with direct knowledge of the situation told ABC News Thursday night.
Jay Sekulow, the other attorney on the team who has served as its public face, remains on board.
“Our task from the start was to stand up a team externally and internally to handle this for the president with our guidance, input, and assistance,” a source in Kasowitz’ law firm who has knowledge of the situation told ABC News.
“We got Sekulow to do the media appearances, Dowd to be the D.C. criminal lawyer, and Ty [Cobb] to handle the White House. And, most important, we got that team up and running with the president’s confidence, which took a period or introduction and transition,” the source said.
The source added, “Now we will let them do their jobs with our input and guidance to them and the president. Ty [Cobb] has the lead internally and given his very longstanding relationship with Dowd, will interact with him directly.”
Trump’s frustration with the Russia probe was evident in an interview he had this week with The New York Times in which the president said that the special counsel leading the investigation, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, would be crossing a line if he started looking into the Trump family’s personal finances, specifically those unrelated to Russia.
“I think that’s a violation,” Trump said in the interview. “This is about Russia!”
Trump did not explicitly say he would fire Mueller if such a situation arose, telling the Times that he “can’t answer that question because I don’t think it’s going to happen.” But the president added that if Mueller did investigate, he would find that Trump’s finances are “extremely good.”
Mueller was authorized in May to lead the Justice Department probe into “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the [Trump campaign],” according to the order naming him special counsel. He may also look into “any matters that … may arise directly from the investigation,” which could potentially include an inquiry into Trump’s finances.
He is further granted “additional jurisdiction beyond that specified in his … original jurisdiction,” “or to investigate new matters that come to light” if the attorney general — or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, in this case, given Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal — determines “whether to include the additional matters.”
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