A well-connected conservative lawyer raised eyebrows in Washington Monday morning, as George Conway III — husband of top White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, and until recently under consideration for a top job in President Donald Trump’s Justice Department — publicly criticized the president.
Conway was responding to a Monday morning presidential Twitter rant in which Trump criticized his own Justice Department for revising his “travel ban” on people from several predominantly Muslim countries.
“These tweets may make some ppl feel better, but they certainly won’t help OSG [Office of the Solicitor General] get 5 votes in SCOTUS, which is what actually matters. Sad,” Conway tweeted in response to Trump.
The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2017
These tweets may make some ppl feel better, but they certainly won't help OSG get 5 votes in SCOTUS, which is what actually matters. Sad. https://t.co/zVhcyfm8Hr— George Conway (@gtconway3d) June 5, 2017
The background to this is that after the first version of Trump’s “ban” was blocked in court, the administration withdrew it and submitted an altered version it hoped could better withstand legal scrutiny. But in doing so, they’ve tried to argue that this is a new policy and that its legality should be judged independently from the president’s statements about older versions of the “ban.” Conway is saying tweets and public statements like this from Trump could prove problematic for government lawyers who are making that case in court (a topic Vox’s Dara Lind wrote about this morning).
The argument isn’t really new, but the fact that it’s Conway who’s making it is rather striking. He was reportedly a contender for the solicitor general job and since March has been said to be the top contender to lead the Department of Justice’s civil division under Trump. It was only last week that Conway took his name out of consideration for the post, citing family reasons. It remains unclear whether there’s more to the story here, but no matter what went down, it’s highly unusual for a top White House staffer’s spouse who was about to officially join the administration to chide the president on Twitter.
Update: Conway has elaborated on his opinions further, saying he still supports Trump and is criticizing him for undermining his own agenda by tweeting too much on legal matters:
1) Just to be clear, and in response to inquiries, I still VERY, VERY STRONGLY support POTUS, his Admin, policies, the executive order ...— George Conway (@gtconway3d) June 5, 2017
2) ... and of course, my wonderful wife. Which is why I said what I said this morning. Every sensible lawyer in WHCO and every political ...— George Conway (@gtconway3d) June 5, 2017
3) ... appointee at DOJ wd agree with me (as some have already told me). The pt cannot be stressed enough that tweets on legal matters ...— George Conway (@gtconway3d) June 5, 2017
4) ... seriously undermine Admin agenda and POTUS--and those who support him, as I do, need to reinforce that pt and not be shy about it.— George Conway (@gtconway3d) June 5, 2017