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Trump Replaces Truth Social’s Top Lawyer as Twitter Return Looms

May 19, 2022, 9:45 AM

The company behind former President Donald Trump’s startup social media platform Truth Social has a new top lawyer in former Homeland Security Department official Scott Glabe.

Trump Media & Technology Group Corp. has hired Glabe as general counsel, according to a Monday securities filing. The former Husch Blackwell partner replaces Lori Heyer-Bednar, who reportedly was among a group of executives to leave the company as it navigated technical setbacks.

TMTG was formed last year as an alternative to Facebook and Twitter after both social media platforms banned Trump following the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the US Capitol. Trump has challenged the bans in a trio of widely panned First Amendment lawsuits.

Elon Musk’s $44 billion bid to acquire Twitter Inc., which remains in flux, could present a challenge to Truth Social if Trump is restored to the rival social media platform. A Musk-owned Twitter could potentially undercut a key pillar of Truth Social’s formation—that conservative political voices have been “canceled” by liberal-leaning technology giants.

Glabe joined Husch Blackwell last year after several roles in the Trump administration, including at Homeland Security. Husch Blackwell spokesman Steven Renau said Glabe left the law firm in early April.

Renau declined to discuss whether Husch Blackwell is advising TMTG, citing a firm policy not to comment on possible clients.

Glabe didn’t respond to a request for comment about his role at TMTG. A media contact for the company, which lists a headquarters address in Sarasota, Fla., also did not respond to a comment request.

The Monday securities filing by Digital World Acquisition Corp., the special purpose acquisition company planning to take TMTG and Truth Social public, listed six top executives for the merged entity. Trump will serve as its chairman and director, with former Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) as chief executive officer.

Public records show that Husch Blackwell received at least $320,600 from Trump’s presidential reelection campaign in 2020. The firm made headlines that year for representing rapper Kanye West in his long-shot bid to get on the presidential ballot in Wisconsin, a key swing state that ultimately went to President Joe Biden.

New Legal Chief

Glabe handled investigations and compliance work during his time at Husch Blackwell. He led a 200-person team at the Homeland Security Department as its acting under secretary for policy, according to the securities filing by DWAC.

Public records show that Glabe earned $183,100 working for the US government in 2020. Prior to DHS, he was an associate counsel in the Trump White House and held several senior legal and policy positions in Congress, including serving as a deputy staff director to Nunes on the House Intelligence Committee.

Glabe is a Yale Law School graduate and member of the US Navy Reserve who was deployed to Afghanistan, per his Homeland Security biography. He began his legal career nearly a decade ago as an associate at Covington & Burling in Washington.

“We believe that Mr. Glabe’s wide-ranging legal, leadership, and crisis management experience make him a valuable addition to the management team,” DWAC said in the securities filing.

Glabe’s position as TMTG’s general counsel was first revealed last month in a separate corporate filing in Florida.

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, retained by TMTG last year to advise on its plans to go public and build out the Truth Social platform, remains outside counsel to the company, per the new securities filing. DWAC is being advised by Ellenoff Grossman & Schole, a boutique known for its SPAC expertise.

Bloomberg Law reported last year on another former Nunes aide, Michael Ellis, being hired as general counsel for Rumble Inc., a video sharing and streaming startup also based near Sarasota. Rumble and TMTG have a partnership. DWAC recently saw its share price rise after Rumble announced April 22 that its cloud infrastructure will host Truth Social’s website and mobile applications.

Truth Social v. Twitter

A federal district judge on May 6 upheld Twitter’s ban on Trump in the freedom of speech lawsuit he filed against the company. The former president has similar cases pending against Facebook and Alphabet Inc., owner of YouTube.

Twitter, whose board said Wednesday it would force Musk to proceed with his plans to buy the San Francisco-based company, could still complicate Truth Social’s future.

Musk, a billionaire and self-proclaimed “technoking” at electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc., has sparred publicly with Twitter’s lawyers and said he would reverse Trump’s permanent Twitter ban if he buys the company. Trump told Fox News in April he has no interest in rejoining Twitter.

While downloads of Truth Social have recently picked up—a version of the app for Android is expected by month’s end—the platform was hit with a variety of technological glitches upon launching in February.

That same month Heyer-Bednar, TMTG’s former top lawyer, gave an interview to Brian Glenn of the Right Side Broadcasting Network during the annual CPAC conference in Orlando in which she gave out her Truth Social username—Lolee_Truths—and addressed issues related to the app’s debut.

“Our biggest criticism is, ‘You guys are just like Twitter,’” Heyer-Bednar said. “I take that as a compliment, it is so user-friendly because it feels like home.” Heyer-Bednar added that Truth Social’s goal is “to be Twitter and Facebook combined and better.”

Heyer-Bednar, whose resignation from TMTG was first reported last month by Politico, didn’t respond to a request for comment. The Florida litigator was first listed as the company’s chief legal officer in October.

DWAC, the SPAC supporting Truth Social, was less sanguine about the venture’s prospects in this week’s filing.

“A number of companies that were associated with President Trump have filed for bankruptcy,” the filing said. “There can be no assurances that TMTG will not also become bankrupt.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com