Following a New York Times story about the Jones Day law firm’s involvement in Donald Trump’s legal war against the 2020 election results, Twitter was ablaze Tuesday with outrage toward the international mega firm. By mid-morning, the Lincoln Project had gotten on board, vowing to launch a multi-platform campaign not only against Jones Day, but also targeting its largest clients for continuing to stick by the firm. The strong reaction is warranted, obviously—but it’s a little late.
Jones Day has been Trump’s outside campaign counsel since he was a long-shot candidate in 2016, defending him in a number of morally reprehensible matters over the course of his presidency. When peaceful protesters who were assaulted at a Trump rally sued—noting that Trump had repeatedly encouraged his supporters to “get ‘em out of here”—who got the case tossed out? Jones Day. The firm also batted back a lawsuit over the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion in Russian cyber attacks. It helped shepherd Trump through the Mueller investigation, hosted Trump in its DC office, and circulated top partners in and out of prominent administration jobs.
Sure, you can argue that none of that is as bad as mounting a legal crusade to shake the public’s confidence in a fair, democratic election. But the point is that it’s not as if Jones Day only recently signed on for this. Yet, for the most part, the firm has been unscathed. Though there have been rumblings about internal discord stemming from the Trump representation, Jones Day’s public image remains intact. An exodus of clients, or lawyers resigning in protest has never materialized. It has continued to be one of the most desirable destinations for Supreme Court clerks (among the most highly coveted hires in Big Law). Last year, CBS broadcast the evening news and Face the Nation from the rooftop of Jones Day’s DC office.
Not that any of this is terribly surprising. The firm has been shielded by the same old trope that everyone, no matter how repugnant, is entitled to legal representation in this country. It’s technically true, of course, but it ignores the glaring fact that no one has to represent any client, or align with any cause unless they want to. In this case, the adage has been subverted into an argument for normalizing an administration that has been anything but normal.
So, here we are at the end of the Trump presidency, and finally we’ve mustered some real anger about a mainstream corporate firm aiding and abetting dangerous behavior. The Lincoln Project has the right idea in calling out Jones Day’s clients, since law firms rarely change course unless the money threatens to walk out the door. Too bad the public shaming is more than four years past due.