Donald McGahn, the former White House counsel who at times clashed with President Trump over the ongoing special counsel probe but led his overhaul of the federal judiciary, told The Washington Post on Sunday that he will rejoin his longtime law firm, Jones Day, this month — a move that was long expected by his friends and keeps him ensconced in conservative legal circles.
McGahn, 50, said he will lead the firm’s government regulation practice as a partner in Washington and will stay involved with senior Senate Republicans as an outside adviser on nominations to the Supreme Court and federal courts.
“I enjoy the practice of law and I look forward to coming back to Jones Day,” McGahn said in an interview, adding: “I’m just going to practice law. No paid corporate speeches and no books, unlike some others who have worked in the White House.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he will continue to seek his support on nominations.
“We keep in touch and talk from time to time,” McConnell said. “Some would argue we were co-conspirators going back to the 2016 campaign, where we worked on the number one priority I had and the president had.”
McGahn, who left the West Wing last October, was a key figure in the selection and confirmations of Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh, whose nomination last year was roiled by sexual misconduct allegations.
According to two Senate GOP aides, McGahn has recently boosted Neomi Rao, Trump’s nominee to replace Kavanaugh on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in phone calls with lawmakers. Rao has encountered some Republican resistance, with a few GOP senators questioning whether she would expand abortion rights.
McGahn declined to comment about private exchanges.
McGahn’s moves inside and outside the White House have drawn criticism for giving conservative groups such as the powerful Federalist Society and their allies too much influence in the judicial nomination process.
“I don’t think we’ve ever seen the equivalence of the Federalist Society in any administration prior, either Republican or Democratic,” said Walter E. Dellinger, a former acting solicitor general for President Bill Clinton. “You have the White House, Federalist Society and Senate leadership working together in an unprecedented way.”
Leonard Leo, the group’s president, said McGahn has been “invaluable” to the conservative cause and will “continue to share information and ideas” with him and others at the Federalist Society.
During the Trump administration’s early months, McGahn was central in installing conservative lawyers throughout the government with the intent of curbing federal power — a low-profile but sweeping effort former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon described as “dismantling the administrative state.”
In the interview, McGahn said he was “proud and honored” to have helped Trump on judicial and regulatory work and did not have regrets about his experience.
McGahn’s latest practice at Jones Day will focus on related issues, working with private interests on regulatory matters and litigation, as well as on crisis management. It is a departure from his previous work on election law. McGahn said several colleagues from his time in the White House are planning to join him at the firm.