Michael Ellis (attorney)

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Michael Ellis
Born1984/1985 (age 37–38)
EducationDartmouth College (BA)
Yale University (JD)
Occupation
  • Attorney
  • political operative
  • government official
Political partyRepublican
Spouse
Katherine Racicot
(m. 2011)

Michael Ellis (born 1984/1985)[1] is an American attorney, Republican political operative,[2] and former government official. He is a visiting fellow for law and technology with the Heritage Foundation's Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies. Ellis previously worked in multiple positions in the George W. Bush administration, for Republican congressman Devin Nunes and the Trump administration, being called a Donald Trump loyalist.[3] He worked as a legal advisor to the National Security Council and was later appointed as Senior Director for Intelligence for the agency. In December 2021, he became the general counsel for the online video platform Rumble.[4]

While on the NSC, Ellis was tasked with conducting a security review of a memoir by former Trump national security advisor John Bolton that sharply criticized Trump, resulting in Bolton being criminally charged.[5] Ellis was appointed as the general counsel of the National Security Agency during the closing days of the Trump administration in 2020. NSA director Paul Nakasone opposed the appointment, but was ordered by acting defense secretary Christopher Miller to install Ellis to the position. Despite a preliminary finding by the Defense Department Inspector General that there was no improper influence on the appointment process, Nakasone placed Ellis on administrative leave on the first day of the Biden administration. Ellis resigned the following April, with an investigation later finding that there was no improper influence in his selection.

Early life and education[edit]

During high school, Ellis lived in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. He socialized with the journalist David Klion, with whom he often played the strategy board game Diplomacy. At the age of 17, Ellis wrote an essay about the Battle of Caporetto. Ellis is an Eagle Scout.[6]

Ellis attended Dartmouth College[7] where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2006 and graduated summa cum laude.[8][9] While at Dartmouth, he was the editor of the Dartmouth Review and a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity.[8] He went on to attend Yale Law School where he earned a Juris Doctor in 2011.[10] While at Yale, he was President of that school's chapter of the Federalist Society.[11] In 2011 he was named as one of the Forbes 30 Under 30 for law and policy.[12][7] He also served as an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserve.[13]

Career[edit]

Early career in law and politics[edit]

While a freshman at Dartmouth, Ellis was a volunteer for the George W. Bush 2004 presidential campaign. After graduation he was hired by the administration to work as the associate director of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives. He held the position from 2006 to 2007.[14] From 2007–2008 he was the deputy director of strategy in Boston for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.[9] Ellis clerked for Judge Amul Thapar of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky and Judge Jeffrey Sutton of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals,[15][10] and later served as counsel to Mike Rogers from 2013 to 2015 [8] and Devin Nunes and the Republican majority on the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence from 2015 to 2017.[16][17] Ellis was one of the principal staffers who compiled the 2016 bipartisan House Intelligence Committee report on the Edward Snowden leaks, which was unanimously approved by the Committee.[18]

2017 to present: National Security Council and NSA[edit]

In 2017, Ellis became the deputy legal advisor to the National Security Council (NSC) and the senior associate counsel to President Trump.[19] The same year, The New York Times reported that Ellis was one of two officials who provided intelligence documents to Representative Devin Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, regarding the Trump Tower wiretapping allegations.[20]

In March 2020, Ellis was appointed Senior Director for Intelligence on the NSC.[21][22] The same year, he was assigned to further review the manuscript for The Room Where It Happened, a memoir written by former national security advisor John Bolton.[23][24] The review was conducted from May 2 to June 9. It was later acknowledged that as many as half of the items Ellis had marked as classified may not have been so when Bolton wrote his manuscript, and Ellis's review was the first time that those items in the manuscript were flagged.[24][25][26][27][28][29] NSA Director Nakasone agreed that the book contained classified information, and a federal judge later ruled that "Bolton likely published classified materials."[30] Ellis was also investigated by the Defense Department inspector general regarding accusations that he retaliated against Eugene Vindman, the twin brother of Alexander Vindman who was a whistleblower in the Trump-Ukraine scandal.[31]

In November 2020, Ellis was named general counsel of the National Security Agency (NSA) by the Pentagon general counsel after a civil service selection process.[32] The position was within the federal civil service, which would allow Ellis to remain beyond the end of the Trump administration.[17][33] He did not immediately assume the position, and NSA director Paul Nakasone opposed the appointment,[34][16] and it was seen by some as a political appointee.[17] Senators Mark Warner and Jack Reed requested that the Pentagon's acting inspector general conduct an investigation into the appointment.[35]

Four days before Trump was set to leave office in January 2021, acting defense secretary Christopher Miller ordered the NSA to install Ellis by 6pm on January 16, 2021.[33] NSA Director Nakasone did not honor Miller's request by the deadline,[35] stating he had concerns over Ellis' qualifications.[36][37] Nonetheless, on the required day, NSA announced that "Mr. Ellis accepted his final job offer yesterday afternoon."[31] Nakasone placed Ellis on administrative leave on the first day of the Biden administration, pending completion of a Defense Department inspector general inquiry into the circumstances of his appointment,[38] the preliminary findings of which found no improper political influence in the selection process.[39] On April 16, 2021, Ellis resigned.[40] The Inspector General later released findings saying there was no improper influence in Ellis' selection.[41]

In May 2021, Ellis became a visiting fellow for law and technology with the Heritage Foundation's Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.[42] The Inspector General later released findings saying there was no improper influence in Ellis' selection.[43]

Personal[edit]

Ellis married Katherine Racicot in 2011.[9] In 2013, he appeared as a contestant on Jeopardy! and won with a final score of $16,400.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Corvo, Kevin (May 8, 2013). "Who is Michael Ellis?". ThisWeek Community News. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Trump loyalist:
  4. ^ "Former Trump, Nunes Aide Lands Top Legal Job at Rumble Platform". Bloomberg Law. December 9, 2021.
  5. ^ Spencer S. Hsu; Josh Dawsey (June 16, 2021). "Justice Dept. drops John Bolton book lawsuit, won't charge the ex-security aide who became Trump's scathing critic". The Washington Post.
  6. ^ Klion, David (October 23, 2020). "The Game That Ruins Friendships and Shapes Careers". Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 20, 2021.
  7. ^ a b Sohr, Caroline A. (April 23, 2013). "Former TDR Editor Appears on Jeopardy! and Wins First Round". The Dartmouth Review. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  8. ^ a b c Cleary, Tome (March 31, 2017). "Michael Ellis: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Heavy. Retrieved April 27, 2021.
  9. ^ a b c "Katherine Racicot, Michael Ellis". The New York Times. July 2, 2011. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  10. ^ a b "President Donald J. Trump Announces Key Additions to the Office of the White House Counsel". whitehouse.gov. March 7, 2017. Retrieved September 28, 2019 – via National Archives.
  11. ^ "Federalist Society Chapter Flourishes at Yale Law School; Rove, Mukasey Among Recent Featured Speakers". Yale Law School. September 8, 2010. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  12. ^ "30 Under 30: Law & Policy". Forbes. December 19, 2011. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  13. ^ Vavra, Shannon (November 9, 2020). "White House official, former Nunes aide Michael Ellis named NSA general counsel". Cyberscoop. Retrieved April 27, 2021.
  14. ^ Naham, Matt (March 3, 2020). "Trump Installs Lawyer Who Worked for Rep. Nunes and Don McGahn in Key NSC Role". Law and Crime. Retrieved April 27, 2021.
  15. ^ Lat, David (April 5, 2017). "Trump White House Lawyers: How Much Are They Worth? (Part 2)". Above the Law. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  16. ^ a b "White House official and former GOP political operative Michael Ellis named as NSA general counsel". The Washington Post. November 9, 2020. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  17. ^ a b c Schmitt, Eric; Crowley, Michael; Barnes, Julian E. (November 11, 2020). "Who Are the Senior Officials at the Pentagon and the N.S.A?". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  18. ^ Herridge, Catherine (January 21, 2021). "Recent Trump appointee at National Security Agency placed on leave". CBS News. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved February 6, 2021.
  19. ^ "Annual Report to Congress on White House Office Personnel" (PDF). whitehouse.gov. Retrieved September 28, 2019 – via National Archives.
  20. ^ Rosenberg, Matthew; Haberman, Maggie; Goldman, Adam (March 30, 2017). "2 White House Officials Helped Give Nunes Intelligence Reports". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  21. ^ Goodman, Ryan (March 4, 2020). "The Gravity of Michael Ellis' Promotion to Senior Director for Intelligence at the White House". Just Security. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved July 23, 2020.
  22. ^ Natasha, Bertrand; Daniel, Lippman (March 3, 2020). "Trump loyalist installed in top intelligence post on National Security Council". Politico. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved July 23, 2020.
  23. ^ Haberman, Maggie; Benner, Katie (June 16, 2020). "Trump Administration Asks Judge to Stop Publication of Bolton's Book". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 23, 2020. Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  24. ^ a b Benner, Katie; Savage, Charlie (June 18, 2020). "Targeting Bolton, Justice Dept. Again in Alignment With Trump's Desires". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on June 22, 2020. Retrieved June 21, 2020.
  25. ^ Savage, Charlie (June 17, 2020). "Justice Dept. Escalates Legal Fight With Bolton Over Book". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 22, 2020. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  26. ^ Rummler, Orion (June 18, 2020). "DOJ applies for emergency restraining order to block Bolton's book". Axios. Archived from the original on June 22, 2020. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  27. ^ Baker, Peter (June 17, 2020). "Bolton Says Trump Impeachment Inquiry Missed Other Troubling Episodes". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 23, 2020. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  28. ^ Hsu, Spencer S.; Weiner, Rachel (June 19, 2020). "U.S. judge blasts Bolton for abandoning classified information review but doubts he can bar book publication". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on June 23, 2020. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  29. ^ Miller, Zeke; Riechmann, Deb; Colvin, Jill (June 17, 2020). "White House seeks emergency order to block release of John Bolton's book". Star Tribune. Minneapolis, Minnesota. Associated Press. Archived from the original on June 17, 2020.
  30. ^ Cohen, Marshall; Cohen, Zachary (June 25, 2020). "Breaking down Bolton's account of a White House in turmoil". CNN. Retrieved May 3, 2021.
  31. ^ a b Barnes, Julian E.; Schmidt, Michael S. (January 17, 2021). "N.S.A. Installs Trump Loyalist as Top Lawyer Days Before Biden Takes Office". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  32. ^ Nakashima, Ellen (January 17, 2021). "NSA is 'moving forward' to install Michael Ellis, a former GOP operative, as its top lawyer, the agency said". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 24, 2021.
  33. ^ a b Nakashima, Ellen (January 16, 2021). "Acting defense secretary orders NSA director to immediately install former GOP operative as the agency's top lawyer". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  34. ^ Seligman, Lara; Bertrand, Natasha (November 11, 2020). "Trump's new Pentagon sets up clash over Afghanistan pullout". Politico. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved November 15, 2020.
  35. ^ a b Herb, Jeremy; Starr, Barbara; Liebermann, Oren; Cohen, Zachary (January 17, 2021). "Acting secretary of defense orders NSA chief to install Trump loyalist as agency's general counsel". CNN. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  36. ^ Hansen, Sarah (January 17, 2021). "NSA Will Install Trump Loyalist Michael Ellis As Its General Counsel". Forbes. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  37. ^ Matishak, Martin (January 17, 2021). "Trump loyalist to be installed as NSA's top lawyer". Politico. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  38. ^ Nakashima, Ellen (January 20, 2021). "Former GOP operative Michael Ellis placed on administrative leave from NSA top lawyer job". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  39. ^ Nakashima, Ellen (April 17, 2021). "NSA official Michael Ellis, installed as Trump left office, resigns". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 3, 2021.
  40. ^ Conklin, Audrey (April 16, 2021). "Trump-era NSA appointee resigns after Biden admin placed him on months long administrative leave". Fox News. Retrieved April 16, 2021.
  41. ^ "Review of the Selection Process and Administrative Leave of the Former National Security Agency General Council" (PDF). Inspector General Report US Department of Defense.
  42. ^ "Michael J. Ellis Joins Heritage Foundation as a Visiting Legal Fellow". The Heritage Foundation. May 3, 2021. Retrieved May 3, 2021.
  43. ^ Barnes, Julian (October 21, 2021). "Report Finds No Wrongdoing in Hiring of Trump Loyalist as N.S.A.'s Top Lawyer". Retrieved November 8, 2021.