It’s not often that a Big Law partner is thrust into the international spotlight in the way that Morgan Lewis & Bockius’ Sheri Dillon was on Wednesday morning.
In his first press conference since July, President-elect Donald J. Trump introduced Dillon as the lawyer tasked with ironing out any conflicts created by his myriad business interests before he sets foot in the Oval Office.
Dillon’s role was to reassure the public that by letting his sons run his business empire, her billionaire client, Trump, will enter the highest office in the nation with no business conflicts — just like all his predecessors. But she didn’t sugar coat it: The primary conflicts of interest rules that other politicians must follow do not apply to the President, Dillon said at one point.
She faced long odds that her press conference performance would go off as an easy, non-remarkable experience. Indeed, the Twitterati did not waste any time or put the kid gloves on when reviewing how she performed:
— David Lat (@DavidLat)January 11, 2017
With Trump and Vice-President elect Mike Pence standing off to her side, Dillon dutifully read from a script about how Trump had instructed her to completely separate him from his business interests.
She added that he’s not shutting down his businesses, and therefore divesting his interests and putting the money into a blind-trust is “not possible.”
“President-Trump can’t un-know that he owns Trump Tower,” Dillon read, “and the press will make sure any new developments at the Trump Tower are well-publicized.”
But she added, the president has instructed her and her law firm partners to completely isolate Trump from the responsibility of managing his companies. That didn’t seem to reassure many journalists.
so far this rando lawyer’s only explanation of why Trump can’t divest is because it might sort of suck for him?
— Sam Biddle (@samfbiddle)January 11, 2017
Dillon did use the opportunity to give her law firm a shout-out, but it’s not clear that mentioning Morgan Lewis will be good publicity.
A few people noticed that this past May, Chambers & Partners bestowed Morgan Lewis as ‘Russia law firm of the year’ for the strength of its Moscow office — a distinction that took on an unexpectedly ominous note, given news reports on Tuesday night that Russian intelligence agents may have compiled a dossier of salacious, compromising information on Trump, and in light of reports that Russian intelligence tried to manipulate the election. Conspiracy theorists, take note!
Before it gets deleted, the law firm representing Donald Trump during his “press conference” earlier.pic.twitter.com/jhhOIWybJk
— Gabe Ortíz (@TUSK81)January 11, 2017
Ensuring the president has no business conflicts is rooted in the country’s early history: After Benjamin Franklin accepted a diamond-encrusted snuff box from France’s King Louis XVI in 1785, the U.S. enshrined rules in the Constitution, known as the Emoluments Clause, to prevent foreigners from buying off our politicians with gifts.
Dillon is a deeply experienced tax lawyer. After spending a year as a Vinson & Elkins partner, she joined Morgan Lewis in 2015, not long after the firm acquired many of Bingham McCutchen’s former lawyers — which is where Dillon had previously worked.
According to her firm bio , she represents clients in tax controversy matters, such as IRS examinations and appeals, and also helps clients with tax planning.
Based in Washington, D.C. and a graduate of Georgetown Law, Dillon also founded the Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic at the David A. Clarke School of Law to provide pro bono tax advice and legal services.
Representing the President-elect of the U.S. is likely to bring more attention to Dillon and her partners than ever before. Morgan Lewis and its tax group may well be ready to handle complicated matters, but as one reporter asked, will they want the attention?
— Katelyn Polantz (@kpolantz)January 11, 2017