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Between April and September of the turbulent year of 2001, Jennifer G. Newstead went from life as a rapidly rising associate at Davis, Polk & Wardwell to playing major roles as a U.S. Department of Justice attorney in reorganizing the FBI and drafting the USA Patriot Act. In her spare time, Newstead, a 34-year-old graduate of Yale Law School, lectured on national security law as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center. Then in May 2002, she transferred from the Justice Department to the White House, where she is now special assistant and associate counsel to President George W. Bush. Lawyers are not famously known for modesty. But in a telephone interview from her quarters in the baroque Old Executive Office Building, adjacent to the White House, Newstead said of her clearly full life, “Coming to work here makes you feel quite humble, frankly.” A former boss at the Department of Justice, the man who lured her from private practice in New York to federal service, was more expansive. “Jennifer Newstead is perhaps the smartest, most motivated and most influential young lawyer you’ve ever heard of in D.C.,” said Viet D. Dinh, 35, who recently rejoined the faculty of Georgetown Law after a stint as deputy U.S. Attorney General for Legal Policy, a division of the Justice Department where Newstead served as his principal deputy. With reference to the events of 9/11 and the legal policy work that followed, Dinh added of his colleague, “When her country called, she answered — big time.” Both Newstead and Dinh, a graduate of Harvard Law School, clerked for Judge Laurence H. Silberman in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. And both have served in the U.S. Supreme Court: Newstead as a clerk for Justice Stephen Breyer, Dinh for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. On the unforgettable morning of Sept. 11, the two were at a breakfast meeting with a group of Congressional aides. As Newstead recalled, “Cell phones started going off at once. When we got back to the office, we heard about the second tower falling [at the World Trade Center]. There was a lot of uncertainty about what was happening. It became a series of reacting as best we could to the events.” Dinh said Newstead had established a structure at the Justice Department that proved useful in the days following 9/11. “Jennifer actually started at Justice during the time I was going through the confirmation process,” said Dinh. “She set up what has become a significant think tank within the administration, which she continued through the hard times of 9/11. I can’t imagine that we would have fared as well at Justice had Jennifer not been there.” Newstead joined the White House on the recommendation of a departing attorney with whom she had frequent contact as Dinh’s deputy. In terms of office size, her transfer was the equivalent of leaving a big firm like Davis Polk for a boutique practice. Newstead is one of only eight associates and one deputy serving under White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, the former Texas Supreme Court judge. “It surprised me a little bit,” Newstead said of the small and necessarily collaborative White House staff. “It makes for interesting opportunities. Each of us at my level has responsibility for certain issues, based on [federal] agency or topic.” When the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 was pending in Congress, for example, Newstead was assigned corporate fraud matters because of her background at Davis Polk in complex securities litigation, mergers and acquisitions, antitrust and white-collar criminal cases. While Newstead is circumspect in discussing her White House portfolio, a former colleague at Davis Polk confirmed her wider role in federal bench appointments. “She’s involved in judicial vetting,” said Scott W. Muller, general counsel for the Central Intelligence Agency and a former Davis Polk partner. Judge Gonzales, he added, has charged Newstead with “an extraordinary amount of responsibility.” Although both New York’s U.S. senators, Charles E. Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton are Democrats, Newstead said, “The office does consult with senators, and tries to work with them. We do consult with the New York senators. The fact that they’re of a different party doesn’t matter.” But because of their conservative ideology, a number of candidates put forth by Bush have run into stiff Democratic opposition. As a result, Senator Schumer has called for a bipartisan judicial nominating commission along the lines of those operating in several states. Further, Senator Schumer said in a June 25 letter to Judge Gonzales that he was concerned “the White House is, as of now, not planning to comply with its constitutional duties [to consult with senators] should a Supreme Court vacancy occur.” EARLY INTEREST IN POLITICS Newstead’s interest in politics and government began at the age of 16, when she was selected as a Congressional page by the late John Chaffee, the Republican U.S. senator who represented her home state of Rhode Island. “You run around doing administrative tasks,” Newstead said of her time as a page, “but you get to sit there and watch government working.” Newstead’s colleagues have heard her relate stories of those earliest government days, and her adventures in the 1996 presidential campaign of Robert Dole. So it came as no surprise to Arthur F. Golden, a litigation partner at Davis Polk, when Newstead decided to leave the firm and join Dinh in Washington. “She had one foot out the door, it’s not like she came to me to get my opinion,” said Golden, who first met Newstead when she was assigned to him as a team member in representing R.J. Reynolds in the state attorneys general master tobacco settlement of 1999. “She’s modest, but at the same time very sure of herself.” During her five years at Davis Polk, Newstead likewise impressed Robert B. Fiske Jr., a senior litigation partner and a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He credited Newstead with navigating the intricacies of the Missouri Supreme Court in winning two appeals of a $90 million judgment against their client, the Japanese manufacturer of a sport utility vehicle with a propensity for roll-over crashes. The administrative judge of the Missouri high court eventually prevailed upon opposing counsel to settle rather than pursue further action — ultimately resulting in what Fiske termed a “substantially reduced” payout. “Jennifer was masterful in dealing with the various lawyers in a very diplomatic way,” said Fiske. “She was the chief architect of our brief and our strategy, which involved interesting constitutional arguments, evidentiary and policy issues, and restatement of law.” In her current capacity, Newstead handles broadly defined responsibilities of the Office of White House Counsel: pending criminal and civil investigations; national security matters; White House requests for legal advice; presidential clemency matters; and communications between the Justice Department and the White House on policy, legislation, budgeting, appointments, public affairs, intergovernmental relations, as well as administrative and personnel matters relating to criminal or civil cases. SENSE OF HISTORY Life at the White House provides Newstead an omnipresent sense of history, she said, particularly on the occasions of Oval Office meetings. Visually, she said, at least some of her work day is similar to the hectic scenes of “West Wing,” the NBC television show — though “less glamorous.” Contrary to the ubiquitous coffee mugs in the hands of television White House staffers, Newstead said her own coffee comes in a “standard cafeteria paper cup.” With characteristic understatement, Newstead said, “There aren’t a lot of slow days. It’s a tremendous honor to work here. It’s a real privilege to serve the president.” Soon, however, she will leave honor behind — for as long as it takes to honeymoon. Newstead and her fianc� are to be married in early September in a small town in Maine, likely to be visited on the big day by certain well-known well-wishers.

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