As President Trump has sought to overturn the election outcomes, his private legal professionals paraded themselves earlier than tv hosts, state elections officers and anybody else keen to entertain their baseless claims of voter fraud.
However behind the scenes, a longtime conservative lawyer named Cleta Mitchell quietly helped. Her work for Mr. Trump drew widespread consideration for the primary time over the weekend, when a recording was launched of an hourlong call in which Mr. Trump threatened Georgia elections officials with “a felony offense” in the event that they didn’t “discover” sufficient votes to alter the state’s presidential outcomes.
On the call, Ms. Mitchell repeatedly jumped in to assist Mr. Trump, exhibiting an intimate degree of involvement in his efforts as she made baseless claims concerning the election and pressed Georgia officers at hand over election knowledge.
Ms. Mitchell is a accomplice on the legislation agency Foley & Lardner, which has over 1,000 legal professionals and an workplace in practically each main metropolis in america and represents massive firms corresponding to CVS Pharmacy. Her presence on the decision stood out as a result of Mr. Trump has struggled to draw high-profile legal professionals to help his makes an attempt to overturn the election, as a substitute counting on a bunch that has included Rudolph W. Giuliani, the previous New York Metropolis mayor who has pushed outlandish claims in protection of Mr. Trump all through his presidency, and Sidney Powell, who has espoused conspiracy theories.
Ms. Mitchell has been advising the president for weeks, in accordance with an individual aware of the matter.
Within the day after the audio emerged, Foley & Lardner sought to distance itself from Ms. Mitchell, saying in a press release on Monday that its legal professionals have been anticipated to chorus from representing or advising anybody within the election. The agency mentioned it was analyzing Ms. Mitchell’s position on Mr. Trump’s authorized crew.
“We’re conscious of, and are involved by, Ms. Mitchell’s participation within the Jan. 2 convention name and are working to know her involvement extra totally,” the agency mentioned.
Ms. Mitchell didn’t return an e-mail in search of remark.
Though she is affiliated with a longtime legislation agency, Ms. Mitchell matches the mould of many legal professionals who’ve suggested Mr. Trump throughout his presidency as he confronted a particular counsel investigation and impeachment and has now taken on a specious effort to overturn the vote.
Ms. Mitchell has for years represented a spread of conservatives corresponding to Scott Pruitt, Mr. Trump’s former head of the Environmental Safety Company, and organizations just like the Nationwide Rifle Affiliation. Lately, she represented conservative Tea Occasion teams that accused the I.R.S. of wrongly concentrating on them.
Throughout the Russia investigation, Ms. Mitchell publicly attacked the particular counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, within the information media, questioning why his crew was not analyzing Hillary Clinton as a substitute.
Ms. Mitchell, 70, began her political profession as a Democrat, profitable election to the Oklahoma Home of Representatives in her mid-20s and serving for practically a decade earlier than unsuccessfully campaigning for lieutenant governor in 1986.
She got here to Washington as an activist pushing for time period limits and registered as a Republican in 1996. She established herself as one of many one of many celebration’s main election and nonprofit legal professionals, representing its congressional marketing campaign arms and a number of other of its candidates, in addition to teams that again Republicans, together with the N.R.A., the place she additionally served on the board.
However in contrast to most conventional political legal professionals, Ms. Mitchell maintained a public profile supporting candidates and causes, incomes a popularity as a firebrand. She was a number one critic of the I.R.S.’s remedy of nonprofit groups associated with the Tea Party movement throughout the Obama administration and of state and native coronavirus restrictions that religious groups opposed final yr.
Throughout the Trump administration, Ms. Mitchell has additionally represented the nonprofit of the president’s former chief strategist Stephen Ok. Bannon, which has been scrutinized by federal prosecutors in Manhattan as a part of a broad investigation into whether or not Mr. Bannon defrauded donors.
At one level within the name over the weekend, Mr. Trump introduced up a baseless declare about ballots from Atlanta that have been for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.
“Does anyone learn about it?” Mr. Trump requested.
“I learn about it, however —” Ms. Mitchell mentioned earlier than she was interrupted by the president.
“OK, Cleta, I’m not asking you. Cleta, truthfully. I’m asking Brad,” Mr. Trump mentioned, referring to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger of Georgia.
Maggie Haberman contributed reporting. Sheelagh McNeill contributed analysis.