Trump Announces New White House Counsel

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on November 30, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The president-elect announced last Friday that Donald F. McGahn would be joining his new administration as White House counsel. McGahn is a long-time D.C. insider, a partner at Jones Day, who spent five years on the Federal Election Commission and was once chief counsel for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

During the election, McGahn led Jones Day's work for the Trump campaign, making his transition into a White House role natural. Indeed, McGahn had been connected to the new president for quite some time. His uncle, Patrick McGahn, represented Donald Trump when he first began investing in real estate in Atlantic City.

Like Uncle Like Nephew?

Donald McGahn's uncle was known for being able to "get things done" in Atlantic City. That may have influenced Trump to seek out his nephew when launching his presidential campaign, at least according to a Washington Post report on McGahn this April.

Did Trump recognize a name he could trust when he decided to hire Don McGahn to get things done in This Town? McGahn did not respond to repeated requests for an interview, nor did the Trump campaign.

"I got to believe that Trump came to Don because of Pat, that's got to be the connection," said Bill Pascrell III, a lobbyist who worked on behalf of Trump casinos for more than a decade. "When Trump needed an election lawyer, I doubt he just Googled 'good election lawyers.'"

If pairing with Trump might seem unusual for a white shoe firm like Jones Day, it doesn't seem so unusual for McGahn, who doesn't mind standing out. Until recently he sported long hair, according to the Post, and his hobbies include playing in a Guns N' Roses cover band.

In House in the White House

As White House counsel, McGahn will be responsible for advising the president on legislation, policy, ethics, financial disclosures, conflicts of interest, and more. He'll also have a hand in judicial appointments and will serve as the White House's primary contact with the Department of Justice.

Like in-house lawyers, his responsibility is to the office itself, however, representing the president only in his official capacity. McGahn will not serve as Trump's personal attorney.

"Don has a brilliant legal mind, excellent character and a deep understanding of constitutional law," Trump said in a statement. "He will play a critical role in our administration, and I am grateful that he is willing to serve our country at such a high-level capacity."

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