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    Trump eyes legal, communications teams shakeups as probe moves on

    President Donald Trump.
    Elsa/Getty Images
    President Donald Trump.

    WASHINGTON — President Trump is planning to shake up his legal team and is also evaluating options for his communications team as the FBI and congressional investigations into his campaign’s possible ties to Russia heat up.

    The president’s longtime attorney, Marc Kasowitz, is likely to be eased into a less prominent role within Trump’s outside legal team, according to a person familiar with the president’s thinking who requested anonymity to discuss Trump’s plans.

    Separately, the person said Trump was continuing to evaluate what to do with his beleaguered communications team. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the principal deputy press secretary, is expected to be the administration’s public face for the foreseeable future.


    The shift in Kasowitz’s role came as the White House announced it was hiring veteran Washington lawyer Ty Cobb to oversee its legal and media response to the expanding inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign.

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    Administration officials have said they want someone to enforce discipline in the White House regarding Russia matters.

    The White House had been planning for weeks to hire an inside point person to handle Russia matters, easing the burden on legal counsel Don McGahn and his team.

    Kasowitz, whose association with Trump goes back decades, isn’t expected to be fired. Still, the apparent decision to limit his role, first reported by Axios, follows a recent pair of damaging ProPublica reports about the New York attorney.

    The nonprofit journalism group reported that Kasowitz wasn’t seeking a security clearance despite the Russia case, which involves significant amounts of classified material.


    It quoted former anonymous employees of the law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres describing the attorney as struggling with alcohol abuse.

    Kasowitz in response sent a series of profane and threatening e-mails to an unidentified man who wrote him about the report, only to have those messages turned over to ProPublica.

    Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Kasowitz, said Sunday’s characterization by the White House official of efforts to diminish Kasowitz’s role were “not true,” and didn’t match what he’s been hearing about the president’s legal strategy.

    Marc Kasowitz.
    Justin T. Gellerson/The New York Times
    Marc Kasowitz.

    Prospects for White House press secretary Sean Spicer are also unclear. His contentious clashes with reporters at the briefing-room podium became regular fodder for late-night comedians, and he has not held an on-camera press briefing since June 20.

    Spicer didn’t accompany the president on his recent trip to France, while Sanders rode with Trump aboard Air Force one.


    In a separate development, several topics close to the Trump administration are on the agenda for the four-day annual conference of the 9th Circuit federal courts, which starts Monday in San Francisco.

    The nation’s largest federal court circuit has clashed repeatedly with Trump over the past six months.

    Judges in the circuit have blocked both of Trump’s bans on travelers from a group of mostly Muslim countries and halted his attempt to strip funding from so-called sanctuary cities.

    Trump has fired back, referring to a judge who blocked his first travel ban as a ‘‘so-called judge’’ and calling the ruling that upheld the decision disgraceful.

    The 9th Circuit’s spokesman, David Madden, said there was no intention to link the agenda to the administration.

    At least some of the topics were timely even before the election, and they all reflect issues that could come before judges in the circuit, which includes the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals and district and bankruptcy courts in California and eight other Western states, Madden said.

    One panel at the conference will discuss programs designed to keep people out of federal prison.

    Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has directed federal prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges possible against the vast majority of suspects, which will probably send more people to prison and for much longer terms.

    On Tuesday, a panel will discuss voter fraud, voter suppression and ‘‘foreign interference in US elections.’’ Another panel will tackle fake news.