Douglas Letter, a former top lawyer at the U.S. Justice Department who retired in January after four decades at the agency, will serve as the top lawyer for the U.S. House next year as Democrats return to power.
Letter worked as the director of the appellate staff in the Justice Department’s civil division until his February retirement. He joined the Georgetown Law Center, becoming a senior litigator at the school’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection.
His appointment, announced Friday by incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, comes as Democrats prepare to unleash what is expected to be a barrage of investigations into President Donald Trump’s administration and business, along with separate probes into tech companies and other industries.
“I look forward to serving the interests of the House of Representatives and its members,” Letter said in a prepared statement released by Pelosi’s office. “I am eager to apply my litigation experience as I take on the challenges and opportunities that come with the important position of House general counsel.”
Letter would be the chief point person for any litigation involving enforcement of subpoenas targeting Trump administration officials and others in the president’s orbit. The House general counsel’s office provides legal advice and representation to members of the House and committees without regard to political affiliation.
“There will be subpoena battles in the days ahead with the executive. A brillant, tenacious lawyer & leader like Doug is perfect for the job,” Robert Loeb, an Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe partner said Friday on Twitter. Loeb, an appellate veteran himself, worked closely with Letter at the Justice Department.
Georgetown Law professor David Vladeck, a former director of the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer protection bureau, said Letter “knows exactly what it is the administration is going to argue because for 35 years he was representing the administration, both Republicans and Democrats.”
In January, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder described Letter as the personification of “what is best about the Justice Department and at the same time is typical of DOJ lawyers: dedicated, smart and sacrificed to serve his country.”
Letter succeeds former Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner Thomas Hungar, who was picked for the general counsel post in 2016 by then-Speaker Paul Ryan. Hungar, a former clerk to then-Justice Anthony Kennedy, had served as co-chair of the firm’s appellate and constitutional law practice.
Hungar took the lead role defending the House’s recent demand for testimony from former FBI Director James Comey, who had resisted appearing before lawmakers behind closed doors.
Comey, represented by a team from Dechert, argued that a non-public hearing would fuel partisan narratives and selective leaks from lawmakers. Comey later dropped his challenge after receiving assurance that he could speak publicly about his testimony and be allowed to release a transcript of his closed-door hearing.
Hungar also made court appearances in disputes over the Affordable Care Act and a public-records spat involving the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. He was not immediately reached for comment Friday.