Two corporate law firms are helping Trump attack democracy. What do their other clients think?
Joe Biden won the presidential election. But Trump won't concede. Instead, he's launched a scorched-earth legal strategy to undermine confidence in the entire democratic system. Two prestigious corporate law firms are helping Trump turn his conspiracies into court filings.
This year, many states expanded mail-in voting to give people a safe way to participate in an election during a deadly pandemic. Trump claimed, without evidence, that allowing more mail-in voting would result in widespread fraud and allow Democrats to "steal" the election. And Jones Day, one of the largest law firms in the world, has been happy to do Trump's bidding in court.
For example, after Election Day, Jones Day filed a motion on behalf of the Pennsylvania GOP asking the Supreme Court to order election officials to segregate ballots received after November 3. (There is an ongoing legal dispute about whether ballots postmarked by Election Day but received by November 6 will be counted.) The motion was successful but made some lawyers at the firm uncomfortable. Six Jones Day lawyers told the New York Times that "given the small number of late-arriving ballots involved in the litigation, and the fact that they already had been segregated, the main goal of the litigation seemed to be to erode public confidence in the election results."
Jones Day has represented the Trump campaign since 2015, collecting "more than $20 million in fees from the Trump campaigns, political groups linked to Mr. Trump and the Republican National Committee." One Jones Day partner, Don McGahn, represented Trump during his first campaign as an outside attorney, was named White House counsel, and then returned to Jones Day. Another Jones Day partner, Noel J. Francisco, was named Trump's first Solicitor General before returning to the firm. John Gore, a former official at Trump's Justice Department, is helming the firm's election-related work for Trump.
Jones Day defended its work in a statement:
Jones Day is not representing President Trump, his campaign, or any affiliated party in any litigation alleging voter fraud. Jones Day also is not representing any entity in any litigation challenging or contesting the results of the 2020 general election. Media reports to the contrary are false.
But some Jones Day lawyers believe the firm's allegiance to Trump has gone too far. Nine Jones Day attorneys told the New York Times they "are worried that it is advancing arguments that lack evidence" to help Trump "undermine the integrity of American elections."
Another major corporate law firm, Porter Wright, is also filing election-related lawsuits on behalf of Trump. On Monday, the firm filed a 105-page complaint that seeks to enjoin the state of Pennsylvania from certifying its results. The Porter Wright attorneys representing Trump ask the judge to provide:
An order, declaration, and/or injunction that prohibits the Defendant County Boards of Elections and Defendant Secretary Boockvar from certifying the results of the 2020 General Election in Pennsylvania on a Commonwealth-wide basis.
The lawsuit is not based on any specific allegation of fraud but the sweeping claim that the state's entire system of mail-in voting was unconstitutional. It's a specious claim, but one that seeks to invalidate the votes of millions of people so that Trump can cling to power.
On Tuesday, Porter Wright filed another lawsuit challenging the acceptance of around 2,000 votes in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, for various alleged ballot defects. Biden's lead over Trump in Pennsylvania is currently more than 47,000 votes — and that margin is expected to grow.
Jones Day and Porter Wright have decided to prioritize billable hours over the integrity of the democratic system. But both firms also represent some of the world's most prominent corporations. What do they think of being represented by law firms that are helping perpetuate Trump's lies about the election? We asked them.
Amazon retains Porter Wright, stays silent on the firm's effort to undermine the election
Amazon hired Porter Wright to defend the company after it was sued by the family of a teenager that died from caffeine powder purchased from Amazon's website.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos congratulated Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Instagram earlier in the week. Bezos wrote that the victory of Biden and Harris proves that “[u]nity, empathy, and decency are not characteristics of a bygone era...By voting in record numbers, the American people proved again that our democracy is strong.”
As a major provider of election services across the nation, the tech giant says it understands the importance of maintaining the integrity of the democratic process. The company said that “elections are among the most important administrative processes underlying our democracy, and they face an array of sophisticated threats designed to undermine...public trust."
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment about its relationship with Porter Wright.
Business leaders acknowledge Biden's victory, continue to work with Jones Day
The Business Roundtable, a large business lobbying group, published a statement on Nov. 7 congratulating Biden and Harris. The Business Roundtable wrote:
Business Roundtable congratulates President-elect Biden on his election as 46th President of the United States. We also congratulate Vice President-elect Harris on her historic accomplishment as the first woman, Black woman and person of South Asian descent to be elected Vice President of the United States....We look forward to working with the incoming Biden Administration and all federal and state policymakers.
The group also dismissed Trump's claims that his legal challenges could reverse the outcome. “While [we] respect the Trump campaign’s right to seek recounts, to call for investigation of alleged voting irregularities where evidence exists and to exhaust legitimate legal remedies, there is no indication that any of these would change the outcome,” the Business Roundtable said.
But many members of the Business Roundtable are clients of Jones Day, including Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky, Dell CEO Michael Dell, Procter & Gamble CEO David S. Taylor, Wells Fargo CEO Charles Scharf, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg, and Hanesbrands CEO Stephen Bratspies.
Johnson & Johnson, Dell, Procter & Gamble, Verizon, and Hanes did not respond to a request for comment. Wells Fargo declined to comment.
McDonald's congratulates Biden, is mum on relationship with Jones Day
McDonald’s has been a client of Jones Day since late 2012. Most recently, in 2019, the firm successfully represented the company in a case over labor violations by McDonald’s franchisees.
This past Tuesday, in an interview with CNBC, McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said that his company recognizes and congratulates President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris. McDonald's did not respond to a request for comment about its relationship with Jones Day.