Law firm

How a heavyweight law firm linked the GOP establishment to Donald Trump

“We believe that Donald Trump’s impulsive temper, his flair for controversy, his vindictive approach to his opponents and his alarming views outside the constitutional mainstream, are unsuited for him to oversee the execution of laws in a fair and impartial manner. “, says the letter. . It continued like this, before concluding that Trump “must be decisively voted down in November.” Ayer’s signature came first and was followed by those of 22 other senior DOJ officials from Republican administrations.

Ayer didn’t bother to tell anyone at Jones Day about the letter, which may not have been a big deal, except there was also a second mistake.

Trevor Potter, a former aide to John McCain and chairman of the Federal Election Commission, ran a nonprofit called the Campaign Legal Center. The center has promoted voter rights and limits on money in politics, among other things. Potter invited Ayer to join a team that would examine legal strategies to protect people’s democratic rights. “I would love to,” Ayer replied. His plan was to work for the group on a voluntary basis.

The problem (or one of them, anyway) was that in June 2016, the center filed a complaint with the FEC accusing the Trump campaign of illegally soliciting campaign donations from foreign politicians. . The center followed up a month later by asking the Department of Justice to investigate.

Ayer’s mistake was not agreeing to work with the centre. His mistake was that while he was not offering to take on the Campaign Legal Center as a client or bill for hours, he decided it would be prudent to let Jones Day know he had intends to lend its considerable credibility to this group. He thought it would go through the company’s conflict check process. It was the same process that, without too much hassle, cleared the Trump campaign to be a client.

But when McGahn learned of Ayer’s plan, he opposed it. A Jones Day partner should not be allowed to work with a group that has taken legal action against one of Jones Day’s most important clients, McGahn argued. His protests were heard. glen swim– a member of Brogan’s inner ring – let Ayer know he would not be allowed to work with the center.

“There is no suggestion that the interests of the company would be furthered in any way by the proposed work,” Nager told me in an email, while saying he could not recall of the specific incident. “On the other hand, there is a suggestion that the business would face ethical, legal, brand and/or revenue risks from the proposed work.”

Ayer was flabbergasted and furious. A few times thereafter, he tried to obtain authorization to carry out various projects at the Campaign Legal Center, in vain. McGahn had asked that this work be blocked, and Brogan’s power structure had done the blocking. It was non-negotiable.

Ayer aired his grievances to a number of people within the company. Some – maybe most? – agreed with him privately. While Ayer still loved Jones Day, he came to be seen as a lonely, proud voice of dissent over the toxicity of the Trump relationship. His co-workers admired the position he was taking, but they felt he had fallen out of favor with company executives. Ayer retired in 2018; now he was free to publicly warn of what he saw as America’s dangerous descent under his former employer’s client. One of his first phone calls was to Trevor Pottervolunteering, again, to help.

I first spoke with Ayer in January 2021, the day before Joe Biden was sworn in as president. The insurgency that Trump had helped stoke two weeks earlier remained a raw wound. “I’m disappointed the firm decided to represent Trump,” Ayer said, looking sad. “At some point they should have gotten off the wagon, because he’s a villain.”

From the forthcoming book SERVANTS OF THE DAMNED: giant law firms, Donald Trump and the corruption of justice by David Enrich. Copyright © 2022 by David Enrich. Will be published by Mariner Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.


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