President Donald Trump approaches Marine One after speaking during an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC to commemorate a tapping of judicial affirmations by the Republican-controlled Senate on November 6, 2019. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi / ALM
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include a statement from Foley & Lardner.
Foley & Lardner are seeking one of their partners to work with President Donald Trump to overthrow the election after that partner’s turnout was published in a call to the Washington Post this weekend. The law firm is now distancing itself from the lawyer and her controversial work.
Led by The Lincoln Project, the outcry over Foley partner Cleta Mitchell’s work for Trump is another example of law firms being pressured to represent Trump in his post-election efforts.
On Monday, Foley said in a statement to Law.com that it was “concerned” about Mitchell’s involvement in the appeal in which Trump urged Georgian Foreign Secretary Brad Raffensperger to “find votes” and reiterated several unsubstantiated election fraud claims.
Foley said the firm decided in November not to open post-election litigation for either party – although individual lawyers could participate in election observation and “similar actions” as private individuals “as long as they do not act as legal advisors.” it seems Mitchell did.
“We are aware of Ms. Mitchell’s participation in the January 2nd conference call and are concerned and are working to better understand her participation,” the company said in a statement Monday.
The direct involvement of the Lincoln Project Tweet Foley was made public when the Washington Post recorded an hour-long audio recording of Trump’s conference call with Georgian Foreign Secretary Brad Raffensperger. During the call, Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, discovers that Foley & Lardner partner Cleta Mitchell is on the line and states that she “is not the registered attorney but was involved”.
While that call revealed Mitchell as an obvious advisor to Trump, it isn’t her first time beating for him. Days after the election, Mitchell appeared on Fox News, which went viral after continuing to insist that Biden didn’t win, causing Fox anchor Sandra Smith to grimace in disbelief. In an earlier appearance, Mitchell said that Trump had evidence of election fraud.
“We’re already checking and finding dead people who voted, or maybe people voted across state lines – voted in two states – illegal votes, non-citizen votes and the like,” Mitchell had said.
Mitchell first joined Foley in 2001, according to her LinkedIn page, and has worked in Republican circles for decades. She served as Co-Counsel to the National Rifle Association on the McConnell v FEC of the US Supreme Court in 2002 and as legal counsel to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Despite the consistent refutations by Raffensperger and his team, Trump made dozens of unsubstantiated claims about the election and vote count throughout Saturday’s call.
“So what are we doing here, guys? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break, ”Trump said at one point on the call.
The call comes after months of post-election defeat in litigation. According to Marc Elias, partner at Perkins Coie who leads the Democrats’ legal strategy, Republicans lost 60 lawsuits after Monday’s elections.
Mitchell’s involvement has sparked public outcry against Foley, similar to what Jones Day and Porter Wright Morris & Arthur received after filing initial by-election lawsuits on behalf of the GOP. The Lincoln Project again led the internet fee. As with Jones Day, the Political Action Committee, formed by former Republican figureheads, begged its nearly 3 million Twitter followers to punish the company and posted the phone numbers of its Milwaukee and Washington, DC offices. The organization also announced the number of Major League Baseball, an obvious customer of the company.
“Can you believe this law firm represents @MLB? America’s bygone days deserves a representation that stands up for America, not seeks to destroy it! “The organization said in a Sunday tweet that has since been retweeted by thousands of accounts.
Communications experts said this type of shame is a new template for activism against law firms: whip up a crowd to flood phone lines and stalk large customers in hopes that the typically image-conscious companies will put pressure on their outside attorney.
“I think every law firm, including Am Law 200 and boutiques, should look out for this. It’s the model for a controversial campaign, ”said Ian McCaleb, advisor to Mercury public relations firm and former member of Hogan Lovells’ strategic communications practice group, of the November Jones Day campaign.
It is still unclear whether this strategy will work. Jones Day and Porter Wright eventually dropped their clients, but not necessarily because of the public outcry. Media reports said that there was chaos and dissent surrounding the representations and public backlash within the companies. During the campaign against the firm, a “top attorney” reportedly on Jones Day told others in the firm, which has long represented the GOP, that it would not represent Trump in future cases.
Lincoln Project targets Jones Day, Porter Wright, and encourages employees to step down in protest
Large corporations’ withdrawal from Trump, GOP, shows growing vulnerability to PR offensive
“Dead people voted”: Foley Lardner partner says Trump has evidence of illegal ballot papers