Major U.S. law firms might see President Donald Trump as one of the country’s most difficult clients, but that isn’t stopping lawyers from leaving private practice to join his administration.
Trump on Tuesday nominated several Big Law attorneys, including lawyers from Kirkland & Ellis, Dechert, McGuireWoods and Greenberg Traurig. All are either alums of the George W. Bush administration or have previous government experience working for Republicans.
Steven Bradbury, Trump’s choice for general counsel of the Transportation Department is a partner in Dechert’s D.C. office, where he represents corporate clients, including companies in the transportation sector. He worked as outside counsel for the Japanese company Takata Corp. as it tackled legal issues arising from defective air bags. He’s also represented several airlines, including US Airways Group in its 2014 merger with American Airlines.
As a lawyer in the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, Bradbury drew attention for authoring opinions that sanctioned the use of enhanced interrogation techniques against terror suspects. Bradbury was nominated to serve as assistant attorney general of OLC in 2005, but Democrats blocked his nomination because of the so-called torture memos.
To head DOJ’s Criminal Division, Trump chose Brian Benczkowski, a Kirkland & Ellis white-collar partner whose nomination has been rumored for weeks. Benczkowski, who joined Kirkland in 2010, has represented a “multinational energy company” in a DOJ investigation into an accident in the Gulf of Mexico and organizations under investigation by the Federal Election Commission, according to his firm biography page.
If confirmed, it would be a homecoming for Benczkowski, who not only worked at DOJ for seven years under Bush but also led Trump’s transition team there. Benczkowski joined the department in 2002, and worked as chief of staff to Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip and then to Attorney General Michael Mukasey. He’s held positions in DOJ’s Office of Legal Policy, Office of Legislative Affairs and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
As a DOJ lawyer in the post-9/11 years, Benczkowski was also caught in the fallout over the OLC torture memos. In 2007, as deputy assistant attorney general, he wrote letters to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, detailing the department’s legal interpretation of the interrogation techniques under the Geneva Conventions. Later, he was involved in drafting an agency response when DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility investigated two attorneys who helped draft torture memos, John Yoo and Jay Bybee.
Another Kirkland attorney, Jeffrey Bossert Clark, will be tapped to head the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. Clark ran the division’s appellate section from 2001 to 2005. The nomination must still be sent to the Senate to formally begin the confirmation process.
Other lawyers slated for agency posts include McGuireWoods’ Carlos Muñiz to serve as general counsel of the Department of Education and Greenberg Traurig’s Robert Charrow to serve as general counsel of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Muñiz is the vice president of state government relations for McGuireWoods Consulting, where he consults on interactions with state attorneys general. He served as Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s chief of staff for three years, and had a role in her office’s decision not to bring legal action against Trump University, the Associated Press reported. Muñiz, whose nomination was previously announced in March, also served as deputy general counsel for then-Gov. Jeb Bush.
Charrow, a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig, joined the firm in 2002 after several years with Crowell Moring. He worked as a campaign finance lawyer for President Ronald Reagan and later served as principal deputy general counsel of HHS from 1985 to 1989.
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