Robert C. O'Brien (attorney)

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Robert C. O'Brien
Robert C. O'Brien.jpg
28th United States National Security Advisor
Assumed office
September 18, 2019
PresidentDonald Trump
Preceded byJohn Bolton
Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs
Assumed office
May 25, 2018
PresidentDonald Trump
Preceded byPosition established
Personal details
Robert Charles O'Brien

Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
EducationUniversity of California, Los
University of California,

Robert Charles O'Brien[1] (born 1965 or 1966)[2] is an American lawyer who is the current United States National Security Advisor and the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs. He is also a partner at Larson O'Brien LLP, a Los Angeles-based boutique law firm.[3][4]

Education and early career[edit]

O'Brien was born in Los Angeles, and attended Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa, California. He received a B.A. in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1988, and a J.D. from the UC Berkeley School of Law in 1991.[5][4] He studied at the University of the Free State in South Africa in 1987.[5] He was admitted to the California bar in 1991.[1]

From 1996 to 1998, O'Brien was a legal officer with the United Nations Security Council Compensation Commission in Geneva, Switzerland, which reviewed and processed claims resulting from Iraq's 1990–91 invasion and occupation of Kuwait.[6]

O'Brien served as a Major in the Judge Advocate General's Corps of the US Army Reserve. While in private practice he also served in appointive positions for the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations.

Private practice[edit]

O'Brien was the California managing partner of Arent Fox LLP, a national law firm, for seven years. During that time he grew the California offices from 10 attorneys to more than 110.[6][7] He represented Buzz Aldrin in a number of high-profile cases, and also represented the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste in proceedings initiated by ConocoPhillips.

O'Brien was the federal court-appointed Discovery Master in the MGA v. Mattel ("Barbie v. Bratz") case. O'Brien also serves as the federal court appointed Discovery Master on the recently settled United States of America v. McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. and Standard & Poor's Financial Services Inc..[8]

O'Brien was a civilian observer for the Pacific Council on International Policy at the pre-trial hearings for alleged September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in June 2014. He served on the International Republican Institute's delegations observing the Republic of Georgia's 2013 presidential election and Ukraine's 2014 parliamentary election.[6]

O’Brien is a founding partner, along with former federal Judge Stephen Larson, of the Los Angeles boutique law firm Larson O’Brien LLP, which they established in January 2016.[9]

George W. Bush and Obama administrations[edit]

O'Brien with Condoleezza Rice in 2007

O'Brien was nominated[10] by President George W. Bush as the U.S. Alternate Representative to the 60th session of the United Nations General Assembly during 2005–06. He addressed the General Assembly on the question of Palestine, and represented the United States in the General Assembly's Sixth Committee, which considered the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.

O'Brien served as Co-Chairman of the U.S. Department of State's Public-Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan, launched in December 2007, which "promoted the rule of law" in Afghanistan by training judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys. He continued this role during the first term of the Obama administration.[4][11]

On July 31, 2008, President Bush announced his intention to appoint O'Brien to serve in his administration as a member of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee, an advisory committee on issues involving antiquities and cultural matters, for the remainder of a three-year term which expired on April 25, 2011.[4][11][11]

In 2016, he advised Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, during which he claimed “It’s clear that Vladimir Putin just doesn’t like [Hillary Clinton], and is going to do what he can to help Donald Trump.”[12]

Trump administration[edit]

O'Brien sworn in as Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs in 2018

In 2017, O'Brien was under consideration by the Donald Trump administration to serve as Secretary of the Navy.[13] The Orange County Register editorial board endorsed O'Brien to serve in this position, stating, "He is the ideal candidate to ensure American global dominance continues—in a way that fits both the present national mood and our enduring national values."[14]

On May 10, 2018, President Trump appointed O'Brien as Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs.[15] He was given the rank of ambassador one year later.[16]

O'Brien took office as the 28th United States National Security Advisor on September 18, 2019. President Trump appointed O'Brien to succeed John R. Bolton, who resigned earlier that month.[17]

Political activity[edit]

In October 2011, O’Brien was named to Mitt Romney’s advisory team as Co-Chair of the International Organizations Work Group.[18] Later, in May 2015, he became an adviser on foreign policy and national security affairs for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's presidential campaign.[19]

Personal life[edit]

Raised a Catholic, O'Brien converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in his twenties. Upon being named President Trump's National Security Advisor, he became the highest-ranking Latter-day Saint in the US government.[2]


O'Brien is the author of the 2016 book While America Slept: Restoring American Leadership to a World in Crisis. Writing in Foreign Policy, Daniel Runde said, "While America Slept is the 2016 equivalent of Richard Nixon's The Real War", and summarizing O'Brien's views:

In The Hill, Bart Marcois, a retired career foreign service officer, wrote, "If you're wondering what trends and events will drive President-elect Donald Trump's foreign policy, you need to read While America Slept, by Robert O'Brien."[21]

The book is broadly critical of the Obama administration’s security and foreign policies.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Robert Charles O'Brien". State Bar of California. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  2. ^ a b "New national security adviser worked on Romney presidential campaign". Deseret News. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  3. ^ Meyer, Dani. "11 Arent Fox Attorneys Decamp to Launch Litigation Boutique". Law 360. Law 360. Retrieved August 30, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d "Robert C. O'Brien". U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on June 23, 2018. Retrieved June 27, 2018.
  5. ^ a b "Robert C. O'Brien, LinkedIn".
  6. ^ a b c "Robert C. O'Brien". Larson O'Brien. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  7. ^ Lee, Alfred. "Firm Heads to Westside to Link With Tech Scene." Los Angeles Business Journal May 2014.
  8. ^ Martin, Timothy W. "Deadline Is Set to Help S&P Prepare Its Defense in U.S. Fraud Lawsuit." The Wall Street Journal 29 May 2014.
  9. ^ "Back to the Courtroom". Larson O'Brien.
  10. ^ "Presidential Nomination: Robert Charles O'Brien".
  11. ^ a b c "Personnel Announcement". Retrieved 2019-09-18.
  12. ^ a b "Donald Trump replaces John Bolton with a hostage negotiator". The Economist. 19 September 2019.
  13. ^ "Why Robert C. O'Brien Would Be an Excellent Choice for Secretary of the Navy". The National Interest. March 2, 2017.
  14. ^ "Robert O'Brien ideal candidate to lead U.S. Navy". Orange County Register. March 3, 2017.
  15. ^ "President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Nominate and Appoint Personnel to Key Administration Posts". The White House. The White House. Retrieved June 27, 2018.
  16. ^ Sherman, Jake; Palmer, Anna; Lippman, Daniel; Ross, Garrett; Okun, Eli (23 May 2019). "POLITICO Playbook PM: Pelosi lights up Trump". POLITICO. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  17. ^ Trump, Donald J. (2019-09-18). "I am pleased to announce that I will name Robert C. O'Brien, currently serving as the very successful Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the State Department, as our new National Security Advisor. I have worked long & hard with Robert. He will do a great job!". @realDonaldTrump. Retrieved 2019-09-18.
  18. ^ Time article "Romney Consolidates"
  19. ^ Johnson, Eliana. "Walker Lands Key Romney Foreign Policy Hand". The National Review. The National Review. Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  20. ^ "Review: "While America Slept"". Foreign Policy. September 16, 2016.
  21. ^ "America's wake-up call". The Hill. November 23, 2016.

External links[edit]

Media related to Robert C. O'Brien (attorney) at Wikimedia Commons