How Jones Day lawyers influenced Trump’s Supreme Court picks : NPR


President Trump has appointed three Supreme Court justices and appointed 274 people to federal judgeships. Journalist David Enrich says many of those choices were influenced by lawyers at Jones Day.

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How Jones Day lawyers influenced Trump's Supreme Court picks : NPR

President Trump has appointed three Supreme Court justices and appointed 274 people to federal judgeships. Journalist David Enrich says many of those choices were influenced by lawyers at Jones Day.

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Editor’s note: Jones Day is an underwriter for NPR and has worked for NPR in the past.

During his presidential campaign in 2016, Donald Trump portrayed himself as a Washington outsider, someone who would “drain the swamp” of vested interests and cronyism. But New York Times Journalist David Enrich notes that Trump’s candidacy and his administration were shaped, in large part, by Jones Day, one of DC’s most politically connected law firms.

For much of Jones Day’s history, it was a corporate litigation juggernaut, raking in billions a year in fees from tobacco, opioid, gun and oil companies. , among many other giant corporations. But, as Enrich writes in his book, servants of the damned, the company became particularly involved in politics during the Trump administration.

“They were more embedded in the Trump administration than any law firm I can think of in any past presidential administration,” Enrich said. “Throughout the White House and the Justice Department, and other agencies, basically everywhere you looked, you would find a former and future Jones Day attorney.”

Enrich points out that Don McGahn, a prominent Jones Day attorney, left the firm to become Trump’s White House attorney. McGahn assumed responsibility for choosing the justices Trump would appoint to federal courts, including the Supreme Court.

“A fundamental tenet of McGahn’s judicial philosophy was this genuine antipathy to what he derisively calls ‘the administrative state,’” says Enrich. “And one of the main results of that is that it results in judges no longer respecting the rights and authority of federal agencies as was the norm.”

Enrich says Jones Day lawyers moved back and forth between the Trump administration and private practice, where they returned directly to representing corporate clients — in some cases with pre-Trump administration interests.

“The idea that this outsider trying to shake things up would turn to a company like Jones Day to staff their administration and help pick their judges and things like that, it’s really antithetical to that,” Enrich says. “When I think of the swamp and I think when Trump thinks of the swamp, there are few things more swampy than this type of internal baseball lobbying.”

Interview Highlights

On the outsized role Jones Day played in the Trump administration

How Jones Day lawyers influenced Trump's Supreme Court picks : NPR

Servants of the Damned, by David Enrich

Harper Collins


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Harper Collins

How Jones Day lawyers influenced Trump's Supreme Court picks : NPR

Servants of the Damned, by David Enrich

Harper Collins

Starting in 2015 the law firm represented their campaign, and they did that throughout the 2016 cycle and then again the 2020 campaign, it was work that basically started on the day of the inauguration of 2017. And so they were at the center of his two presidential elections. campaigns, but they did not represent him personally. …

White House attorney Don McGahn was a very prominent Jones Day advocate, and he surrounded himself in the White House with several senior Jones Day partners and associates whom he brought with him. At the Department of Justice, Solicitor General Noel Francisco was once and future partner of Jones Day. And in the upper echelons of the two in the civil division of the Justice Department, some of the people just below the attorney general were from Jones Day. You had someone at the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Department of Commerce, etc.

Jones Day fulfilling political interests once Trump was in power

Shortly after Trump became president, Jones Day lawyers, both inside and outside the administration, those still in the firm, began to accomplish things they were looking for. long to accomplish but had not been able to do. And the clearest example of that to me is a series of lawsuits brought by Jones Day on behalf of a group of Catholic organizations that were essentially challenging an important provision of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. …one of the first things that [the Trump] administration is doing with the help of Don McGahn is that they’re basically saying they’re going to end an Obama administration policy that sought to compel employers to provide birth control coverage to their employees, which which was part of Obamacare. And that was the subject of the trial. So on the face of it, this was a big win for Jones Day and its customers.

On the political agenda of Jones Day

The law firm is not a monolith, and I think it’s important to say that upfront. And it’s a law firm that has something like 2,500 lawyers in dozens of countries around the world. And like any large organization or law firm, there are employees and lawyers at Jones Day who I think have a wide range of political views from far left to far right. What sets Jones apart is the degree to which the company’s leadership is fairly uniform in its conservative thinking. …

Their agenda…was going to be a lot of deregulation and really getting government out of business to a very large extent, and then also an agenda of what I think good people on the right would call “religious freedom “. And I think people on the left and to some extent people in the center would say that it dramatically erodes the separation of church and state in a way that allows religion to play a much more important role in public and political life.

On how ex-Jones Day lawyer Don McGahn ended up picking the SCOTUS candidates for Trump

Shortly after Trump was elected, Mitch McConnell offered some advice to Don McGahn. The advice was that instead of relying on a White House committee to debate and choose nominees for the Supreme Court and other federal courts, McConnell’s advice was, “Look, you should get permission from Trump to do this by yourself. have the power to choose which judges Trump will appoint.” McGahn liked the sound of that. He offered it to Trump and Trump when he offered McGahn, the position of White House counsel, to easily accept And so McGahn, very quickly, even before Trump was sworn in as president, all of a sudden sat on this enormous power that was really quite unusual historically and he was the one who would choose the people who Trump would appoint to all sorts of federal courts.

On McGahn’s return to Jones Day after working in the Trump administration

He came right back, got a big promotion, got a lot more money. And he was sort of the first of what would become a whole parade of people who went from the Trump administration to the law firm. A lot of them were people who started Jones Day, then went to the Trump administration, then came back. But there were also a lot of people who had never worked at Jones Day before, who might have worked at other law firms. And with McGahn’s return, Jones Day essentially became a haven for veterans of the Trump administration, many of whom had really developed some pretty controversial stories and taken some pretty controversial, polarizing, and legally dubious actions while they were in the Trump administration and so, I think, were pretty radioactive for a lot of other big law firms. But Jones Day welcomed many of them with open arms.

Jones Day profiting from the judicial revolution it sparked

He now takes cases to the Supreme Court and to the lower courts, which was basically made possible by this deluge of very conservative federal judges who now sit on the benches of many courts. So just in the last term of the Supreme Court, which was obviously one of the most sweeping and expansive terms of the Supreme Court, certainly in my life, and Jones Day was pivotal in some of those business. And I think the most important was the case, the West Virginia v. EPA case that significantly limited the EPA’s power to regulate carbon emissions. And this was brought on behalf of the client of Jones Day, a large coal company.

Jones Day was the law firm that essentially ended the pandemic eviction moratorium that the Biden administration had imposed. And Jones Day, just reading the tea leaves and talking to their lawyers now, it’s abundantly clear that they’re plotting a wide range of attacks on the federal government’s power to oversee private businesses and private companies in a way that goes back to Don McGahn and his colleagues’ hatred of the so-called administrative state. And they are now able to defend those positions much more forcefully and succeed in their advocacy – thanks to all the judges that Trump, under the leadership of McGahn and with the support of McConnell, has managed to reach virtually every court. federal in the country.

Sam Briger and Seth Kelley produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Meghan Sullivan adapted it for the web.


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