It is every Washington reporter’s dream to sit down at a restaurant, overhear secret stuff and get a scoop. It rarely happens.
Still, everyone in town important enough to have secrets worth keeping knows that secrets are not safe on the Acela train and in Washington restaurants.
This is especially true in eateries next door to a major newspaper.
Yes, Ty Cobb and John Dowd, lawyers for President Trump, we’re talking to you.
But it’s too late now.
Dowd represents Trump but does not work at the White House. Cobb is a White House employee who is instantly recognizable to many because of his handlebar mustache.
Together, they went for what appears to have been a working lunch at BLT Steak, 1625 I St. NW in Washington. It’s close to the White House and very convenient.
It’s also next door to 1627 I St. NW, which happens to house the Washington bureau of the New York Times.
Sitting at the next table, according to the Times, was Kenneth Vogel, one of Washington’s most skillful investigative reporters. Vogel is a former reporter for Politico, which is based in Virginia, who arrived at the Times just in time for the Russia investigation and, as it turned out, just in time for lunch.
Vogel overheard the lawyers talking about White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II and Jared Kushner, president Trump’s son-in-law, as well as the infamous Trump Tower meeting. Here’s a sample from the article bearing the bylines of Vogel and Peter Baker:
Mr. Cobb was heard talking about a White House lawyer he deemed “a McGahn spy” and saying Mr. McGahn had “a couple documents locked in a safe” that he seemed to suggest he wanted access to. He also mentioned a colleague whom he blamed for “some of these earlier leaks,” and who he said “tried to push Jared out …”
The White House Counsel’s Office is being very conservative with this stuff,” Mr. Cobb told Mr. Dowd. “Our view is we’re not hiding anything.” Referring to Mr. McGahn, he added, “He’s got a couple documents locked in a safe.”
… Mr. Cobb also discussed the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting — and the White House’s response to it — saying that “there was no perception that there was an exchange.”
— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) September 18, 2017
Vogel took their picture and tweeted it. That looks like a big bottle of sparkling water on the table.
Of course, it took some further reporting to get a sense of what this might have meant. You can read about it here, under the headline, “Trump Lawyers Clash Over How Much to Cooperate With Russia Inquiry.”
Dowd was in the news in April for forwarding a conspiracy-theorist’s email to government officials, conservative journalists and others equating Robert E. Lee with George Washington, and Black Lives Matter with “terrorist groups.” The Times broke that story. too. (Fool me once …)
According to the Times, the breach did not sit well with McGahn who “privately erupted at Mr. Cobb.” The White House chief of staff, John Kelly, the Times reported, reprimanded Cobb after the Times contacted the White House about the conversation.
Trump and his aides have complained bitterly and often about leaks, including leaks from the White House.
But who needs leaks when lunch reservations will suffice?
Correction. The caption on a file photo accompanying this story incorrectly said Cobb was a Denver lawyer. He once practiced in Denver but he is a Washington lawyer. The original version also said the chief of staff, John Kelly, erupted at Cobb. It was McGahn who reportedly erupted. Kelly reprimanded Cobb, the Times reported.
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