George J. Terwilliger III

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George J. Terwilliger III
United States Deputy Attorney General
In office
November 26, 1991 – January 20, 1993
President George H.W. Bush
Preceded by William P. Barr
Succeeded by Philip B. Heymann
United States Attorney for the District of Vermont
In office
President Ronald Reagan
George H.W. Bush
Personal details
Born (1950-06-05) June 5, 1950 (age 66)
New Brunswick, New Jersey
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Carol H. Terwilliger
Alma mater Seton Hall University (B.A)
Antioch School of Law (J.D.)

George J. Terwilliger III (born June 5, 1950) is an American lawyer and politician. He is a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of McGuireWoods LLP and is a former United States Deputy Attorney General and acting United States Attorney General.[1][2] Terwilliger, of Vermont, was nominated on February 14, 1992, by President George H.W. Bush to be Deputy Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice. He would succeed William Pelham Barr.[3] As Deputy Attorney General, Terwilliger became the second-highest-ranking official in the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and ran the day-to-day operations of the Department, serving in that position from 1991 through 1993. He was appointed to the position after serving as the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont. In addition, he currently serves on the Advisory Board of Intellaine, LLP,[4] a U.S. defense and risk engineering firm located in Arlington, Virginia.


Terwilliger was born June 5, 1950, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Terwilliger is married, has three children, and resides in Oakton, Virginia.[3] Terwilliger graduated from Seton Hall University (B.A., 1973) and Antioch School of Law (J.D., 1978). A former U.S. Attorney for Vermont and Deputy U.S. Attorney General (1991–93) in the George H. W. Bush administration, Terwilliger specialized in white-collar crime and terrorism.[5] Terwilliger served as a panelist for the Brookings Institution Judicial Issues Forum entitled "Politics and the Justice Department: Finding a Path to Accountability".[6] Terwilliger was listed among the "Top Contenders"[7] to replace Gonzales, "whose tenure has been marred by controversy and accusations of perjury before Congress". Gonzales resigned August 27, 2007,[8] and left office on September 17, 2007.[9][10] Terwilliger "briefly took the helm of the Justice Department as acting attorney general after the departure of former Attorney General William Barr in 1993."[11] From 1978 to 1981, Terwilliger also served as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

Throughout his career, Terwilliger dealt with resolving matters such as investigating BCCI after an international banking scandal and investigating after the savings and loan scandal,[12] environmental cases, antitrust merger reviews and enforcement matters, civil rights and voting cases as well as terrorism and national security cases. Terwilliger was also in charge of all Justice Department operations, including crisis response, such as the 1992 Los Angeles riots. On policy matters, he was a principal in the highest councils of government charged with addressing the broad array of legal policy issues arising in the executive branch.[1]


Terwilliger, Deputy Attorney General under Attorney General Edwin Meese, was described as having acted as the Political Liability Suppression Officer for the Department of Justice in the post-Iran-Contra environment. Terwilliger, in concert with Lowell Jensen (now a federal district judge) acted to suppress or manipulate Iran-Contra prosecutions in sensitive jurisdictions, particularly in Miami, to ensure that no government connection would be mentioned.[citation needed]

In a February 6, 2001 appearance on CNN about Ronald Reagan's "Legal Legacy",[13] after being asked about "lying to Congress", Terwilliger said:

"... one of the things that I found very bothersome about Iran-Contra was that some of the prosecutions for false statements involved false statements that were made in unrecorded interviews with investigators, not in sworn testimony under oath ....
"But whether or not there was substantive violation of law in Iran-Contra surrounding this policy dispute was never really adjudicated: Nobody was ever charged with that crime ...[14]
"But the bottom line is that whether or not there was a violation of law, substantively it was problematic. And the fact that people were hounded, pursued, over alleged false statements, I mean, do we hear an echo here to the complaints from the left and from Democrats about an independent counsel hounding somebody for...."

2000 Florida recount[edit]

During the Florida 2000 election recount, Terwilliger led Republican President-elect George W. Bush's legal team[15] and was "an advisor to the Bush-Cheney Transition and counselor to designated cabinet and other prospective appointees."[1]

Candidate for high-ranking positions[edit]

In June 2001, Bush administration spokesman Ari Fleischer was asked in a White House press briefing whether Terwilliger was a leading candidate to head the Federal Bureau of Investigation.[16]

In 2008, the American Bar Association mentioned Terwilliger as a leading candidate for Attorney General under a John McCain presidency.[12]

Other activities[edit]

In 2003, Terwilliger co-founded the 527 committee Americans for a Better Country with Frank J. Donatelli, former Ronald Reagan White House political director and secretary and treasurer of the Young America's Foundation,[17] and Craig Shirley, president and CEO of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs.[18]

It was reported October 10, 2007, that Terwilliger had been hired by former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales "to represent him in investigations of mismanagement" of the U.S. Department of Justice. "Investigators are look[ing] into allegations that Gonzales lied to lawmakers and illegally allowed politics to influence hiring and firing at the department."[19]



  1. ^ a b c Attorney: George J. Terwilliger III,
  2. ^ Steering Committee: Terwilliger,
  3. ^ a b Nominations, Bush Library, February 14, 1992.
  4. ^ [1], Intellaine, LLP
  5. ^ Profile: George Terwilliger, CNN, undated.
  6. ^ Judicial Issues Forum: "Politics and the Justice Department: Finding a Path to Accountability," Brookings Institution, April 10, 2007.
  7. ^ "5 Top Contenders for Attorney General," NewsMax, August 28, 2007.
  8. ^ Gonzales' resignation letter dated August 26, 2007, posted by TPMmuckraker, August 27, 2007.
  9. ^ Pierre Thomas, et al., "Attorney General Gonzales Resigns," ABC News, August 27, 2007.
  10. ^ "Gonzales Resigns," Think Progress, August 27, 2007.
  11. ^ "FACTBOX: Who replaces Gonzales? Bush has options," Reuters, August 28, 2007.
  12. ^ a b Carter, Terry (November 2008). "The Lawyers Who May Run America". ABA Journal. Retrieved 2008-10-22. 
  13. ^ Transcript: "Burden of Proof. Ronald Reagan's Legal Legacy," CNN, February 6, 2001.
  14. ^ Note: Oliver North's conviction was overturned.
  15. ^ Transcript: Saturday Morning News: "Florida Court Prepares for Historic Hearing," CNN, December 2, 2000.
  16. ^ Russell Mokhiber, Excerpt: "Ari & I. White House Press Briefing with Ari Fleischer", Common Dreams, June 19, 2001
  17. ^ Frank Donatelli, "Reagan's Many Contributions Live On," Human Events Online, June 6, 2005.
  18. ^ 527 Committees: Americans for a Better Country,
  19. ^ Lara Jakes Jordan, "Alberto Gonzales Hires Defense Attorney," Associated Press (, October 11, 2007.
  20. ^ Meeting of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, October 31, 1997.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
William P. Barr
U.S. Deputy Attorney General
Served under: George H.W. Bush

Succeeded by
Philip Heymann