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Law Firm Partner’s Twitter Account Draws Questions During Vetting

March 8, 2017, 5:07 PM

Sullivan & Cromwell’s Brent McIntosh holds an impressive resume with stints in the White House and top positions in the U.S. Department of Justice. Will his use of Twitter sabotage the next stage in his career, as the proposed general counsel of the U.S. Treasury Department?

The co-head of S&C’s cybersecurity practice had been selected to be the agency’s top lawyer by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Bloomberg reports, but now White House aides are asking whether some number of his roughly 3,000 tweets raise questions about his loyalty to President Trump.

Bloomberg reports :

McIntosh ... got an especially tough vetting by the White House personnel office after his Twitter feed was flagged as potentially critical of Trump.

The trouble with his Twitter account, now set to private, wasn’t actual comments made by McIntosh, but news articles he had highlighted for his followers, according to people familiar with the situation. A partner at the Sullivan & Cromwell law firm, McIntosh originally backed former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s failed run for Republican candidate in last year’s presidential race.

As the White House’s scrutiny intensified, McIntosh, who is well-known in conservative Washington legal circles, had several supporters contact administration officials to vouch for him, the people said. His friends stressed that his Twitter account didn’t show any anti-Trump sentiment. Rather, they argued, McIntosh’s tweets showed he strongly opposed Democrat Hillary Clinton.

[Image “brent mcintosh” (src=]

McIntosh declined to comment for the article, which quotes an anonymous source saying McIntosh may have satisfied concerns about his loyalty.

The article states that Trump’s aides are also scrutinizing several other members of the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s picks for his senior management team.

We’ve written previously about how law firm leaders have been slow to adopt Twitter , although some prominent lawyers at big firms are tinkering with the social media platform. Neal Katyal , the former acting solicitor general at Hogan Lovells, joined in September 2016 and has 8,298 followers with 303 tweets; Eric Holder , the former U.S. attorney general at Covington & Burling, joined in June 2015 and has 54.8K followers with 148 tweets; Ted Boutros , the trial lawyer at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, joined in January 2013 and has 7,230 followers.

McIntosh’s situation illustrates some of the risks even if he is eventually confirmed as general counsel of the Treasury Department.

Eugene Volokh, UCLA a professor of law who studies the first amendment, said high level political appointments have always been scrutinized for their loyalty. The difference here is that in the past, a potential appointee may have been questioned over things said at a cocktail party. Here, McIntosh is reportedly being questioned for a tweet of a news article.

“My guess — and it’s only a guess — is that the news article said some very negative things about Trump,” said Volokh. “Most of the time — even though people say ‘retweets are not endorsements’ — when you post something on Twitter, it’s because you think it has something interesting to say and often you agree with it.”

Floyd Abrams, of Cahill Gordon & Reindel, another first amendment lawyer, said he wasn’t familiar with all the details of McIntosh’s case but noted this administration has been particularly sensitive about its appointments’ loyalties. He pointed to reports that Trump rejected his secretary of state’s pick for a deputy, Elliot Abrams, because of questions about his loyalty.

Whatever happens, McIntosh is likely to be a lawyer engaged in high profile work: His bio states that he recently helped VW and Audi resolve criminal, environmental and customs claims with the Justice Department related to the diesel emissions scandal.

According to a search on the Internet archive , which crawls the web and takes screen shots to preserve it in history, McIntosh has been co-head of Sullivan & Cromwell’s cybersecurity practice since around May 2015. He is also a class of 1999 graduate of Yale Law School.

Before that he was simply listed as a partner who “handles litigation and investigations for a wide variety of clients, including many major financial institutions,” although it notes McIntosh holds “extensive experience advising on matters relating to cyber systems and data protection.”

He joined Sullivan & Cromwell in 2001 after two federal appellate clerkships, in D.C. and the 2nd Circuit; and then departed to join the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Policy from 2004 to 2006, including time as a deputy assistant attorney general. Before re-joining the firm, he worked in President Bush’s White House in various positions from 2006 to 2009.