By Julie Hirschfeld Davis
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – President Trump has selected George Conway III, the husband of his counselor Kellyanne Conway, to head the civil division of the Justice Department, people familiar with the decision 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 like 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 immediately respond to requests. The people familiar with Trump’s decision confirmed it on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to pre-empt an impending announcement. 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.
It would also fall to Conway to oversee Trump’s defense in a pending lawsuit 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.
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.
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.