- Brian Snyder/Reuters
White House special counsel Ty Cobb engaged in a lengthy email exchange with a prankster posing as White House social media director Dan Scavino, during which Cobb asked whether there was “any drone time left” when discussing a Business Insider reporter he described as “insane.”
Over the past few days, Business Insider has reported on other email exchanges in which Cobb asked this reporter if she was “on drugs” and delved into his motivations for taking a job in President Donald Trump’s White House.
In the new exchange, the self-described “email prankster,” who tweets under the name @SINON_REBORN and provided the emails to Business Insider, wrote to Cobb’s official White House account on Tuesday night.
Asked to comment on the exchange, Cobb told Business Insider: “No idea–it is a felony of course to impersonate a government official of course, or to conspire to.” He did not respond to follow-up questions.
‘Any drone time left?’
The prankster, who has also targeted other White House officials, sent the email from “email@example.com” with the subject line “Nipping it in the bud.”
“Good evening Ty, I’ve sent a complaint to twitter about the content that drugged up extremist, Natasha Bertrand, is spouting about your correspondence. Things like this on social media die quicker than a Mexican’s hopes of Citizenship, Ha! but I wanted to tick all the boxes. I presume you’ve had no further contact from Ms Bertrand? Dan.”
Cobb responded: “You the Man! She is insane. Thanks Buddy.”
He wrote “Scavino” again three minutes later: “When can we get together? I have emails saying off the record and two hours of trying to help her. Nutty! Ty.”
Cobb never asked for any part of his exchanges with Business Insider to be off-record or not for publication.
The email prankster replied: “We we can sit down tomorrow afternoon, if that’s good for you? What was she pushing for? She has a reputation for being a bit cuckoo.”
“Deeply grateful!” Cobb replied. “Any drone time left?”
The email prankster’s next target was White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, whom he emailed from the same account to ask if she had heard from this reporter.
“Evening Sarah, longshot – but Natasha Bertrand hasn’t contacted you has she? I’ve had Ty contact me this evening saying she’s sent him several emails and is to quote Ty: ‘insane’ ! Dan.”
Sanders replied: “Not today. Last email was from Friday on an appointment at DOJ.”
“Ah okay, that’s good to hear,” replied the email prankster, still posing as Scavino. “He [Cobb] really went off, ending it all half-jokingly asking if we had drone time left. I’ve never heard him so angry.”
“Yikes!” Sanders wrote back. “Glad she didn’t reach out to me then.”
Sanders didn’t respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The next time the email prankster wrote to Cobb was Wednesday morning – again from the “firstname.lastname@example.org” email address.
“I’ve had a response from twitter – apparently Natasha has been warned before, she re-tweeted a gif of Donald Jr fellating a banana (which was deemed indecent – apparently it was photoshopped) So this is all the excuse they need to close her account,” the prankster wrote. “Quite a result! Dan.”
The incident the email prankster described did not happen, and Twitter did not close this reporter’s account.
“Well done Man!!! Thanks so much!” Cobb replied. “Turns out I may be out today but looking forward to thanking you personally! Ty.”
‘The whole Russia situation’
About a half hour later, the prankster reached out again – this time to ask about “the whole Russia situation.”
“One final thing Ty, I’ve been really worried recently about the whole Russian situation,” wrote the prankster, still impersonating Scavino. “The White House will be okay won’t it? I love my job, and the people I work with, I don’t want the dream to end up derailing. Dan.”
“I have great confidence there is nothing there implicating the President or the White House,” Cobb wrote. “Manafort and Flynn have issues separate and apart from the WH that will cause the investigation to linger but am hoping we get a clean bill of health soon. Best, Ty.”
A spokesman for Manafort declined to comment. Flynn’s lawyer did not return a request for comment.
“Thank you, Ty. I think I’ve overthought things,” the prankster replied. “i’ve ruined the contacts on my damn iPhone! Can’t find the Big Man’s email address… apple have a lot to answer for!”
Cobb apparently figured out that he was being pranked.
“Felony to impersonate a federal official,” he wrote in his next message.
The prankster told Business Insider he thinks ‘pushing for ‘the big man’s’ email address set off alarm bells, that probably made him perhaps check he was emailing the correct person. obv he wasnt.”
The ‘adults in the room’
The email prankster’s exchange with Cobb came on the heels of Cobb’s back-and-forth with amateur Trump-Russia sleuth Jeff Jetton, who used his real email address.
In the exchange, provided by Jetton to Business Insider, Cobb defended his decision to join Trump’s legal team and appeared to refer to himself and White House chief of staff John Kelly as the “adults in the room.”
Cobb also mentioned the Russia investigation – which he called “bulls—” that “is totally political limiting Russian cooperation against” North Korea – and said he “walked away from $4 million annually” to join Trump’s legal team.
Cobb told Mother Jones’ David Corn that he “was trying to turn someone who appeared angry into a friend. And privately. My bad. This was what I believed to be a private conversation. There are many pros and talented people in the White House. I am proud to be there. It was not for public consumption but it appears I was catfished.”
Catfishing involves trying to lure someone into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona. Jetton did not create a fictional persona or attempt to lure Cobb into a relationship.
A partner at the law firm Cobb worked for before joining the White House, Hogan Lovells, told Business Insider on Thursday that “the words ‘clown’ and ‘buffoon’ were bandied about” among the firm’s lawyers when they spoke about Cobb before he left for the White House.
“He was supposed to be the DC insider who was going to help Trump get away from the Kasowitz mistake,”said the former partner, who requested anonymity to discuss the subject freely. Trump’s former personal attorney on the Russia matter, Marc Kasowitz, found himself in hot water earlier this summer after sending threatening emails to a stranger.
“Ty isn’t a DC insider. He’s the D team,” the former partner said. He added that many at the firm were furious when Cobb took the position in the White House without first quitting his job at Hogan Lovells. He quit his job roughly two weeks after the White House announced he’d be joining Trump’s legal team.
“Most people were really glad to see him go,” the partner said.
Mark Zaid, a Washington, DC-based national security lawyer, said he was “concerned” about the “operational security failures that have led to these disclosures.”
“These recent emails raise serious concerns about how the White House counsel’s office is being run,” Zaid said on Thursday.
Cobb was not the only White House official tricked on Wednesday, however. The prankster also fired off an email to Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert from the email address “email@example.com” saying he had received a request from CNN to have Bossert on host Jake Tapper’s show.
Bossert evidently forwarded it on to an assistant, who replied to the prankster: “Hope, Mr. Bossert would like to decline this time. Please let us know if you need anything else.”
A spokesman said Bossert never saw the email himself.