LYONS — For Ty Cobb, debate over the impeachment of his former client has become twisted with hypocrisy that typifies today's political landscape.
The Great Bend native, who was special counsel to President Donald Trump from 2017-2018, said Republicans and Democrats effectively flipped their talking points from the 1990s impeachment of former President Bill Clinton.
"Everybody's been exposed as political hacks, and I think that's something we as a country need to reflect on," Cobb said. "It's not real leadership to say it's bad if it happens to me and it's fine if I do it to you."
Cobb spoke about Trump, impeachment, the political climate and his Kansas roots during an interview Tuesday before addressing the Lyons Chamber of Commerce. The annual event drew a crowd of 250 people in the central Kansas town between Hutchinson and Great Bend, an improvement over the 26 who attended the event last year.
Cobb's brother, the president of First Bank in Lyons, invited the D.C. heavyweight attorney to speak at the event. Cobb said he tries never to say no to family.
"It's special to me," Cobb said. "I drove over to Great Bend today and spent some time chatting with my parents in the cemetery. It's a meaningful thing to me."
Homer Kruckenberg, Cobb's high school history teacher, described Cobb as a "brilliant" student who was destined to "go to the top" but maybe a little difficult to keep in line.
Kruckenberg, an 85-year-old resident of Great Bend, said it "warms the cockles of an old man's heart" to see his former pupil.
"Cobb doesn't march to a drummer," Kruckenberg said. "He's his own music."
Cobb's topic for the evening was "sustaining the republic in highly partisan times."
"You talk to each other," Cobb said. "This is a door-slamming era that is unprecedented in my experience."
Cobb is known for his work on Capital Hill — he is one of the guys to call when caught up in congressional investigations. He also worked with the Clinton administration during the Whitewater and Vince Foster controversies.
Additionally, Cobb said he is proud of his conservation work and experience as a prosecutor. These days, he is focused on classified work that is "up my alley."
Cobb said he rejected overtures to write a book about his experience with the Trump administration because he felt it would be inappropriate for an attorney to reveal conversations with a president in an election-year tell-all. He blasted John Bolton, the former national security adviser, for his forthcoming book.
The attorney said Trump's actions with Ukraine don't rise to "high crimes and misdemeanors" worthy of impeachment. The president is on trial in the U.S. Senate for threatening to withhold military aid in exchange for dirt on his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
"It would be another thing for Trump to say, 'I'd like you to get these hotel projects through in Moscow,' or, 'I'd like you to get these hotel projects through in Kyiv,' " Cobb said. "That would rise to a bribery thing, but that's not what happened here."
If Cobb were whispering in the president's ear — and he isn't — he would talk to Trump about what he hears from people at the grocery store.
"This president offends a lot of people by his behavior, by his language, his tweets," Cobb said. "You can be a friend one day and he can come down hard on you the next."