Republican attorney on Trump’s call to Georgia officials resigns from law firm

Josh Gerstein

A Republican election lawyer who was present during President Donald Trump’s extraordinary telephone call on Saturday in which he pressed Georgia officials to “find” enough votes to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the state has resigned from the law firm where she worked for nearly two decades.

The lawyer, Cleta Mitchell, 70, left her partnership position at Milwaukee-based Foley & Lardner one day after the firm issued an unusual public statement expressing concern about Mitchell’s role in the call, in which Trump importuned Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, to decertify the state’s election results.

“Cleta Mitchell has informed firm management of her decision to resign from Foley & Lardner effective immediately,” a firm spokesman said on Tuesday. “Ms. Mitchell concluded that her departure was in the firm’s best interests, as well as in her own personal best interests. We thank her for her contributions to the firm and wish her well.”

Foley & Lardner said on Monday that lawyers there were surprised by Mitchell’s involvement in the Trump call because the firm had decided not to represent candidates in any post-election litigation.

“Our policy did allow our attorneys to participate in observing election recounts and similar actions on a voluntary basis in their individual capacity as private citizens so long as they did not act as legal advisers,” the firm said in a statement. “We are aware of, and are concerned by, Ms. Mitchell’s participation in the January 2 conference call and are working to understand her involvement more thoroughly.”

Mitchell did not respond to messages seeking comment.

In recent years, Mitchell has maintained a practice representing candidates and campaigns in the conservative and populist wings of the Republican Party, including figures such as former Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell of Delaware.

Mitchell served as a Democrat in the Oklahoma House in the 1970s and 1980s before dropping her party affiliation with the Democrats and eventually signing up as a Republican.

Meanwhile, a federal judge on Tuesday ruled against a Trump-filed lawsuit that Trump officials have said prompted the Saturday phone call that Mitchell was present for involving Trump and Georgia officials.

After a 90-minute hearing in Atlanta on Tuesday morning, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Cohen denied Trump’s bid to decertify the Georgia election results. In a written order issued a few hours later, Cohen said the case — filed on New Year’s Eve — came too late. The judge, an appointee of President Barack Obama, also criticized Trump for seeking to derail a challenge he’s already pursuing in state court.

“Plaintiff offers no authority to support a federal court hijacking a pending state election contest case under any circumstances, and certainly not when the failure to expedite was the result of Plaintiff’s own actions,” Cohen wrote.

“To interfere with the result of an election that has already concluded and has been audited and certified on multiple occasions would be unprecedented and harm the public in countless ways,” the judge added in his 28-page decision. “Granting injunctive relief here would breed confusion, undermine the public’s trust in the election, and potentially disenfranchise of millions of Georgia voters.”