Then-White House Counsel Donald McGahn at the announcement of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court in July. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

Donald McGahn, whose 22 months as White House counsel featured frequent legal crises, two U.S. Supreme Court vacancies and an intensifying special counsel investigation, said Sunday he will return to his former law firm, Jones Day.

McGahn first gave word of the move Sunday to The Washington Post, telling the paper he will lead the firm’s government relations practice while also serving as an outside adviser to Senate Republicans on judicial nominations.

“I enjoy the practice of law and I look forward to coming back to Jones Day,” he told the paper.

McGahn was Donald Trump’s top campaign lawyer and one of a gaggle of Jones Day lawyers tapped to join the new administration following the 2016 election. In a pair of financial disclosure forms filed as part of his government appointment, McGahn reported receiving more than $3.5 million in partner income in the year before he took office. Jones Day, meanwhile, also earned millions for its work on behalf of the campaign.

In early 2017, McGahn and other senior administration recruits from Jones Day were granted ethics waivers allowing them to maintain communications with the firm, despite its work with Trump’s campaign committee, the Republican National Committee and other campaign-related entities.


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President-elect Trump first announced McGahn’s appointment in November 2016, praising his “brilliant legal mind, excellent character and a deep understanding of constitutional law.” He announced his departure in an August 2018 tweet, writing, “I have worked with Don for a long time and truly appreciate his service!”

As White House counsel, McGahn played a central role in the successful nominations of a string of conservatives to the bench, including U.S. Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. He also served amid a series of crises for the young administration, such as the legal backlash to the president’s travel ban on immigration from several majority Muslim countries.

He left office amid growing tensions over the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in the U.S. and following reports that he had cooperated more extensively with Mueller than the president’s personal lawyers were aware.

Pat Cipollone, a former litigator at Stein Mitchell Cipollone Beato & Missner and a former partner at Kirkland & Ellis, took over as White House counsel in December, replacing acting White House counsel Emmet Flood, a former Williams & Connolly partner who is now on the team advising Trump in the special counsel’s investigation.

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