George Conway III, 53, would lead a department of about 1,000 lawyers with a vast reach across the government, handling issues such as national security and consumer protection and enforcing federal programs and the actions of the president himself.
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Donald Trump has selected George Conway III, the husband of his counselor Kellyanne Conway, to head the civil division of the Justice Department, sources said Saturday, placing him in charge of a crucial office charged with defending Trump’s contentious travel ban and lawsuits alleging that his business activities violate the Constitution.
Conway, 53, would lead a department of about 1,000 lawyers that has vast reach across the government, handling issues such as national security and consumer protection and enforcing federal programs and the actions of the president himself.
A White House spokeswoman declined to comment on a personnel matter, and the Justice Department did not comment. The choice was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
If confirmed, Conway would immediately be in charge of representing Trump in the legal challenges — which are widely expected to reach the Supreme Court — over his executive order barring people from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.
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It would also fall to Conway to oversee Trump’s defense in a pending lawsuit filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a collection of ethics experts and legal scholars, charging him with violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which bans federal officeholders from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments, because of the profits his hotels and resorts receive from foreign officials who are customers.
Before he was inaugurated, Trump’s personal lawyers argued that the clause did not bar “fair-market-value transactions,” such as paying for hotel rooms. But the lawsuit, filed by Citizens for Responsibility, a liberal watchdog group on government corruption, contends the clause does bar such transactions.
It is likely Trump will face additional legal challenges regarding possible conflicts of interest stemming from his vast real-estate and business empire, from which he has refused to divest.
Installing George Conway to lead the civil division means that defending the president from such challenges will become a family affair for the Conways. Kellyanne Conway, a pollster with a law degree and a staunch loyalist who ran the final months of Trump’s presidential campaign, has been a frequent presence on television news programs promoting the president’s agenda and dismissing criticism of his style and record.
Her zeal on Trump’s behalf has sometimes landed her at the center of controversy, such as when she claimed the White House was entitled to put forward “alternative facts” about the crowd size at his inauguration, and in a separate interview a few weeks later, referred to a terrorist attack in Bowling Green, Kentucky, that never occurred. Last week, she appeared to suggest that President Barack Obama might have spied on Trump through a microwave. Kellyanne Conway later clarified that she was speaking in general about possible means of surveillance, not about Obama. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said she had been joking.
George Conway had been a contender for the job of solicitor general for the Trump administration, but Trump announced this month that the job would go to Noel J. Francisco.
George Conway is a partner at the New York City firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. He specializes in securities, contract and antitrust litigation, as well as mergers and acquisitions, according to his biography on the firm’s website. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the Yale Law School.