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更新时间:2017-9-21 11:36:23 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

‘Isn’t That the Trump Lawyer?’: A Reporter’s Accidental Scoop

WASHINGTON — I have always thought of overhearing conversations as an underappreciated journalistic tool.


When political donors, lobbyists and politicians gather at hotels for meetings and strategy sessions, they often keep out reporters. But they usually can’t keep us out of the lobby bars and restaurants where they gather afterward to gossip. And I’ve picked up all manner of tantalizing nuggets — from U.S. senators, billionaire donors and influential operatives, among others — by positioning myself within earshot of those conversations while nursing a beer at the bar.


Sometimes, those nuggets have been featured in my journalism, including in my behind-the-scenes reporting on how major donors have influenced politics; more often, they’ve merely helped me add texture to my reporting on money and influence.


But I’ve never overheard a conversation quite like the one I accidentally encountered last Tuesday, when I met a source for lunch at BLT Steak, a downtown Washington steakhouse frequented by the capital’s expense-account set. My source chose the restaurant, but I didn’t protest, since BLT is on the same block as The New York Times’s Washington bureau and has a delightful tuna niçoise salad with fingerling potatoes and green beans.

但在以前,我从来没有听到过上周二偶然听到的那种对话,当时我去华盛顿牛排餐厅BLT Steak见一个线人,这家餐厅位于市中心,很多公款报销的餐饮发票就来自这里。是我的线人选择了这家餐厅,但是我没有反对,因为BLT与《纽约时报》华盛顿分社办公室就在同一个街区,而且那里的金枪鱼尼斯沙拉配小土豆和青豆很不错。

Being a rare temperate day in Washington with tolerable humidity, we requested a table in the restaurant’s outdoor section, which abuts a busy sidewalk. Not long after we’d ordered, my source noticed someone he thought he recognized being seated at the table behind me.


“Isn’t that the Trump lawyer?” he asked.


I turned slightly in my chair and noticed the unmistakable visage of Ty Cobb, the veteran Washington lawyer with a prominent handlebar mustache, who was accompanied by another man I did not immediately recognize. Mr. Cobb had been retained by the White House in July to coordinate its response to investigations into Russia’s connections with President Trump and his associates, including whether they conspired to influence the 2016 presidential election.

我在椅子里稍微侧过身,看到那个人无疑是泰·柯布(Ty Cobb),这位华盛顿资深律师留着醒目的八字胡子,和一个我无法立即辨认的同伴坐在邻桌。白宫7月请柯布去协调如何回应特朗普总统及其助手遭受的通俄调查,包括是否串谋影响2016年的总统大选的调查。

My source and I continued chatting as our lunches arrived, even as I periodically strained to hear Mr. Cobb’s conversation with his dining companion, apologizing to my source for seeming more interested in the conversation at the adjacent table than our own. Eventually, he took mercy on me, excusing himself not long after he polished off his crab gazpacho and Caesar salad, and leaving me to focus completely on Mr. Cobb’s conversation, except for a brief and unwitting interruption from a pair of fellow Times journalists passing on the sidewalk on their way to the bureau. I tried to hustle them along when they paused to gently rib me over what must have appeared to be a lonely solo lunch.


The interaction didn’t seem to trigger concern from Mr. Cobb and his dining partner. To my astonishment, they were in the midst of a detailed discussion of the Russia investigations being conducted by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and various congressional committees, as well as the strategy of Mr. Trump’s team for responding.

这个插曲似乎并没有引起柯布和同伴的注意。令我惊讶的是,他们正在详细讨论特别检察官罗伯特·S·穆勒三世(Robert S. Mueller III)和国会各委员会进行的通俄调查以及特朗普团队的回应策略。

They were in a public place where they could have been overheard by anyone. I just happened to be a reporter, and I did not misrepresent myself, so I figured their conversation was fair game. I ordered another iced tea, pulled out my phone and began typing out notes, hoping that they would assume I was merely responding to emails, tweeting or surfing the internet.


I did not record the conversation, but during a lull in their conversation, I did surreptitiously snap a photo of the pair, emailing it to my colleagues in the Times’ Washington bureau who were covering the Russia investigation, in an effort to identify Mr. Cobb’s dining companion.


“Ty Cobb having a very revealing convo at blt steak right now on patio w someone I don’t recognize,” I wrote.


“Can’t tell for sure but looks like John Dowd,” one responded, referring to John M. Dowd, the president’s lead outside attorney in the Russia investigations. “That’s him,” another confirmed.

“不能确定,但看着像约翰·多德,”一名同事回复说。这个同事指的是约翰·M·多德(John M. Dowd)。他是特朗普总统在多项涉及俄罗斯的调查中的首席外部律师。“就是他,”另一名同事证实。

I ordered yet another iced tea, and continued typing away, as Mr. Cobb and Mr. Dowd delved deeper, not paying me any mind.


They discussed presidential privilege and its effect on document production, tensions on the legal team and their colleagues. Mr. Cobb suggested one colleague was not on the president’s good side, but added, “I’m trying to get the president not to pick a fight with her.”


Finally, after more than 45 minutes of my assiduously listening to their conversation by myself, Mr. Cobb picked up the check and announced to Mr. Dowd, “All right, boss, I got to roll back to my little hole. I’ve got like a seven and a half foot ceiling ... Wilt Chamberlain couldn’t stand up in it.”

最终,在我独自坚持听他们聊了超过45分钟后,柯布买单并向多德宣布,“好了,老大,我得滚回我的小洞去了。我那里的天花板大概只有七英尺半(约合2.3米)高……威尔特·张伯伦(Wilt Chamberlain)都站不直。”

I let the pair leave before me, then hurried back to the office to write a memo for my colleagues summarizing what I’d heard. This overheard conversation, they agreed, had the makings of an interesting story revealing a potentially significant debate within Mr. Trump’s legal team about how to respond to these investigations consuming the Trump presidency.


I consulted an editor, who contacted Times Legal. We decided to report out the story. We began contacting people close to the legal team who confirmed that, yes, in fact there was a real divide between Mr. Cobb and the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, about document production strategy. And, yes, there was friction between Mr. Cobb and Mr. McGahn.

我请教了一名编辑,对方联系了时报法务部。我们决定把这个故事报道出来。我们开始联系接近特朗普的法律团队的人士。他们证实,柯布和白宫律师唐纳德·F·麦格恩二世(Donald F. McGahn II)在文件出示策略上确实有分歧。并且柯布和麦格恩之间的确存在矛盾。

That friction was exacerbated, we learned, when word of Mr. Cobb’s overheard lunch conversation reached Mr. McGahn, who chastised Mr. Cobb for his carelessness with sensitive information. The White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, also reprimanded Mr. Cobb for his indiscretion.

我们得知,当柯布吃午饭时的谈话被人偷听的消息传入麦格恩耳中时,两人的矛盾加剧。麦格恩指责柯布对待机密信息粗心大意。白宫幕僚长约翰·F·凯利(John F. Kelly)也批评柯布行事鲁莽。

In an interview with the Times, Mr. Cobb sought to defuse the situation, praising Mr. McGahn, but acknowledging that he and Mr. McGahn are approaching the response to the investigation differently.


The resulting story, published Sunday evening, led an editor at The Washington Post to write “It is every Washington reporter’s dream to sit down at a restaurant, overhear secret stuff and get a scoop.”

最终的报道已在周日晚间发表。报道促使《华盛顿邮报》(The Washington Post)的一名编辑写道,“坐在餐馆里无意中听到秘密并抢到独家新闻是每一个华盛顿记者的梦想。”