Trump's Big Law FEC Nominee Under Fire for Tweets, Views

James “Trey” Trainor III

No more than a day since President Donald Trump announced he would nominate Akerman partner James “Trey” Trainor III as a commissioner on the Federal Election Commission, the former election lawyer for the Trump presidential campaign is already under fire on multiple fronts.

Perhaps to be expected, the nomination of Trainor was almost immediately opposed by advocacy groups such as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)—a nonprofit headed by former ethics czars in the Bush and Obama administrations—who said that Trainor stood for “exactly the opposite” of what the FEC does: Police money in politics.

Perhaps less expected, Trainor’s Twitter feed came under the spotlight after users found that he had retweeted posts expressing what appeared to be anti-Protestant views. In one Tweet screenshot before Trainor’s Twitter feed was made private, he wrote “There is only one church,” while linking to a post from a Catholic site, Churchmilitant.com, that said “Protestantism is poison.”

Trainor, a government affairs and public policy expert who works out of Akerman’s office in Austin, Texas, did not immediately return a request for comment about his controversial Tweets or his nomination to the FEC.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Trainor would serve the remainder of a vacant six-year term on the FEC set to expire on April 30, 2021. He joined Akerman last summer after the firm absorbed the bulk of dissolving Lone Star State shop Beirne, Maynard & ParsonsHe left Akerman in January to serve a three-month stint as a special assistant to U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, returning in late March.

Before serving as counsel to Donald J. Trump for President Inc., Trainor had a long history in electoral politics and litigation in Texas and the national scene.

In 2012, Trainor represented Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign in a Virginia suit challenging the constitutionality of that state’s voter access laws. In Texas, he has represented a conservative nonprofit called Empower Texans, which has fought to keep anonymous the identity of donors to the Texas Ethics Commission.

During last year’s presidential campaign, Trainor worked with the Republican National Committee and was involved at the Republican Convention in shutting down a “Never Trump” movement to unbind delegates on the convention floor in Cleveland.

“I think America is going to be great again,” Trainor told the Austin American-Statesman as he headed to Trump’s inauguration.

Trainor’s work on behalf of the Trump campaign has already caused some to call for him to recuse himself from FEC cases related to the 2016 election if he is confirmed to the FEC.

“It is imperative that he recuse himself from pending matters before the FEC involving the 2016 Trump campaign and any allied super PACs with which he may have been involved,” said Meredith McGehee, chief of policy, programs and strategy at the money-in-politics-focused nonprofit Issue One.

Trainor’s time in the Trump administration, while brief, saw him set up shop in the Pentagon, where he worked in the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of General Counsel as a special assistant to Mattis.

Trainor has also served as general counsel to the Texas Secretary of State, according to his Akerman biography page, and he was appointed as the statewide Republican member representing Texas on the Standards Advisory Board to the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission.

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