Donald F. "Don" McGahn, II currently serves as the White House Counsel for President Donald Trump. An early recruit of Trump, McGahn worked as the General Counsel for the 2016 Republican presidential campaign and later as the attorney for the transition team. On January 25, 2017, President Trump announced appointments for the White House Compliance Team under McGahn to manage compliance and ethics issues at the White House.
"Don has a brilliant legal mind, excellent character and a deep understanding of constitutional law," President Trump said in a statement reported by NPR after appointing the Atlantic City lawyer to the White House Counsel position on November 25, 2016. Trump knew the McGahn family through McGahn's uncle Patrick "Paddy" McGahn who worked as a lawyer for the Trump business for years, helping it settle real estate and political issues involving its properties in Atlantic City, New Jersey, according to NPR.
Known for his exceptional knowledge of election law and his competitive nature, McGahn is considered "one of the most powerful, if least known, figures in Mr. Trump's inner circle," according to The New York Times. The Times further described him as "an iconoclast bent on shaking things up" and an "intimidating man eager to scrap with opponents" since asserting his argument that campaign contribution is a form of free speech.
It is expected that McGahn will fiercely defend the president for exercising his executive authority across issues sensitive to public criticism, including the Trump Organization, potential conflicts of interest arising from his children's involvement in government and his decisions to reverse President Obama's executive orders. After Judge Neil Gorsuch was nominated to the Supreme Court on January 31, 2017, POLITICO reported that McGahn had been the only person who accompanied Trump in his interviews with the finalists.
McGahn, 48, graduated from University of Notre Dame in 1991 before earning a JD degree from Widener University School of Law in 1994 and an LLM degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 2009. He started his legal career at Patton Boggs LLP in campaign finance law and became managing partner at McGahn & Associates PLLC in 2005 and partner at Patton Boggs in 2013. Before serving as the White House Counsel, his latest role was partner at Jones Day in Washington D.C. where he specialized in representing political candidates and elected officials.
Between working at different law firms, McGahn entered the National Republican Congressional Committee in 1999 and became the General Counsel. After nine years at the Committee, he was appointed by George W. Bush in 2008 to join the Federal Election Commission where he served as Chairman, Commissioner and Vice Chairman until 2013. According to MSNBC, McGahn helped introduce looser regulations regarding campaign spending during his tenure at the Federal Election Commission.