Several top lawyers appointed by Barack Obama have left the now-Republican led Justice Department to join forces fighting President Trump.
One of these lawyers, Johnathan Smith resigned from the U.S. Department on Trump’s inauguration day. Smith says he planned to spend time with his son but was quickly drawn back into action when President Trump signed his temporary travel ban two weeks later.
Smith, who worked on religious discrimination issues while serving at the Justice Department, became legal director of Muslim Advocates and began drafting briefs for the civil rights group to challenge the ban in court.
“There’s a unique threat to our democracy and Constitution that we see in the assault the president is mounting on the Muslim community.”
Like Smith, many Obama lawyers credit their rapid transition to blocking Trump on his aggressive positions on key issues, as well as ethical concerns regarding his presidency and business interests.
Obama’s top ethics lawyer, Norman Eisen said he had expected to focus elsewhere after Trump’s election but that “the ethics emergency of constitutional dimensions has galvanized me back into my initial Obama role.”
Some Republican lawyers have responded to how quickly these lawyers are moving into opposition roles. George Terwilliger, a senior Justice Department official under President George H.W. Bush, said the actions are “unprecedented to my memory – and really bad form.”
Other attorneys joining the opposition include former attorney general Eric Holder, who is leading the challenge of Trump’s policies on immigration, healthcare, and environmental regulations in California, and former White House lawyer Ian Bassin, who founded United to Protect Democracy to examine Trump over ethics.
While many Obama lawyers stay connected, they deny that the former president is backing their fight against the Trump administration.
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