Ex-Justice Lawyer Says Firms Shouldn’t Shun Trump DOJ Appointees

Oct. 14, 2021, 9:31 AM

Employers shouldn’t reject former Justice Department appointees just for working under President Donald Trump, said Richard Donoghue, one such designee who began a new Big Law job this week.

“Many of those people were career prosecutors before being appointed,” said Donoghue, a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in New York. “Law firms and others should be encouraging that type of experience and public service,” not “penalizing” those who go in and out of government.

Donoghue served as acting deputy attorney general during the final two months of Trump’s presidency. He resisted pressure to indulge Trump’s voter fraud accusations, according to Politico, and prepared a resignation letter in case Trump forced his boss, Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, to step down.

Rosen, who joined the board of a special purpose acquisition company in July, and Donoghue are among top Trump administration lawyers to recently resurface in the private sector. Trump alumni have been having a hard time landing jobs because of their affiliation with the former president, lawyers and recruiters told Bloomberg Law in June.

“There might have been some of that,” Donoghue said of his own job prospects after leaving Justice. But Pillsbury, a firm he previously worked with as an in-house attorney at CA Technologies, didn’t raise any Trump-related concerns, he said.

The firm, founded in New York more than a century ago, reported more than $723 million in gross revenue to place it among the 65 largest law firms in the country, according to The American Lawyer. Its clients have included Facebook Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., Walmart Inc., Lyft Inc., and State Street Corp., according to its website and a review of court filings.

Pillsbury also hired former Associate Deputy Attorney General Patrick Hovakimian as a partner in February. Hovakimian was another senior Justice official who reportedly drafted a joint resignation letter with Donoghue over concerns that Rosen would be fired.

Donoghue was a prosecutor before he began his six-year stint with CA Technologies. He left the company after Trump nominated him to serve as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Donoghue acknowledged that he has spoken with congressional committees investigating the Capitol riot and Trump’s efforts to interfere in the election.

Trump Avoidance

Some Big Law firms have sought to distance themselves from Trump’s orbit, citing a mix of public relations and ethical concerns.

A pair of large law firms—Morgan Lewis and Seyfarth—said they would drop Trump as a client shortly after the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. Others like Foley Lardner and Barnes & Thornburg parted ways with partners involved in pushing debunked election fraud claims.

Crowell & Moring called for Trump’s removal from office after the riot and urged other large firms to make the same demand. That was an unprecedented move in an industry where large firms have traditionally looked to avoid hot-button issues and evoke an air of impartiality.

Trump-affiliated lawyers run a spectrum, ethics attorney Jan Jacobowitz told Bloomberg Law.

There are those, like Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who are facing disciplinary proceedings and defamation claims for their work to overturn the election. Others are career government attorneys or have been in and out of public service since before Trump won the White House, Jacobowitz said.

“Not all of them need to be blackballed, but a firm should do its due diligence before hiring,” Jacobowitz said.

Jones Day, the firm most closely associated with the Trump administration, welcomed back White House Counsel Don McGahn and Solicitor Noel Francisco, while adding former Labor Solicitor Kate O’Scannlain and Homeland Security lawyer Chad Mizelle.

King & Spalding’s roster includes Rod Rosenstein, the former deputy attorney general, and former Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel.

Rosen has reportedly been subpoenaed to appear before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot. Donoghue declined to comment on his own meeting with the committee or the direction of its probe.

“It’s important that Congress look at all of this to ensure that it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bloomberglaw.com
To contact the editor on this story: John Hughes in Washington at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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