White House lawyer Uttam Dhillon made headlines after a Thursday report claimed he misled President Donald Trump about whether he could fire former FBI Director James Comey.
Dhillon, according to The New York Times, feared firing Comey, as Trump ultimately did last May, would put the presidency in danger. He told Trump the president needed cause to fire the FBI director. After a junior lawyer’s researched concluded Trump could fire Comey for any reason, Dhillon never corrected the record, the Times report said.
So who is Dhillon, the White House lawyer who tried to stop Trump? Turns out he’s worked all over the federal government, including stints at the Justice Department, the Hill, the Department of Homeland Security and private practice. Here’s what to know:
Values executive oversight: As oversight counsel for the House Financial Services Committee in 2014, Dhillon told The National Law Journal his main mission was to help provide a check on the executive branch’s authority.
“Oversight is a critical constitutional function,” he said.
Working closely under Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, Dhillon and his team of lawyers investigated the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Export-Import Bank and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Except when he doesn’t: But, as part of Trump’s White House “compliance team”, Dhillon had a slightly different take on oversight. Dhillon reportedly told top officials at various federal agencies last spring that they don’t need to respond to oversight requests for information from Democratic lawmakers.
A White House spokeswoman told Politico the policy was that the White House would honor requests from committee chairs, regardless of political party. However, Democrats don’t chair any committees since Republicans have the majority in both chambers.
Government service: Dhillon has worked in the federal government on and off since 1990. In addition to serving as chief oversight counsel for the House Financial Services Committee, a job he held from 2013-2017, he also worked for the House Committee on Homeland Security and the House Republican Policy Committee from 2002-2003, and the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight from 1997-1998.
He was head of of Homeland Security’s Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement under President George W. Bush from 2006-2009, and an associate deputy attorney general at the DOJ from 2003-2006. He also worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles from 1990-1997.
Married to EEOC nominee: Dhillon’s wife is on her way to joining her husband in federal government work. Trump nominated Janet Dhillon, the general counsel at Burlington Stores Inc., to serve on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last June. Janet Dhillon’s ethics agreement does not mention her husband’s White House job.
Worked for Comey: As Buzzfeed News’ Chris Geidner reported, Uttam Dhillon actually worked for Comey during his time at the Justice Department, from 2003-2006. In his role as associate deputy attorney general, Dhillon worked right under Comey, who was deputy attorney general from 2003-2005.
Private practice years: In between years in federal government, Dhillon also worked in private practice. After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law in 1987, he joined the firm Gray, Cary, Ames & Frye for a year, and then moved to Stroock & Stroock & Lavan.
Later, from 1998-2001, he worked at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy. Then, before returning to work on the Hill, Dhillon spent nearly four years at the Dallas firm Fitzpatrick Hagood Smith & Uhl, where he was a partner handling federal litigation, white-collar defense and federal appeals.
Dhillon’s financial disclosure form from last near noted the firm could still compensate him for past services, and that he would consult with the counsel’s office before accepting payments.