Patrick F. Philbin is an American lawyer who served in the Donald Trump administration as Deputy Counsel to the President and Deputy Assistant to the President in the Office of White House Counsel. He formerly worked in the Justice Department during the George W. Bush administration.
Philbin attended Roxbury Latin School in Boston, Massachusetts. He earned a B.A. in History from Yale University, where he graduated with honours and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He got his J.D. in 1992, magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School, where he was executive editor of the Harvard Law Review. In addition, in 1995, he earned a Diploma in Legal Studies from the University of Cambridge.
Philbin began her legal career as a law clerk to Federal Appeals Court Judge Laurence Silberman. Following that, he was a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Following his clerkships, Philbin went into private practise with Kirkland & Ellis LLP in Washington, D.C.
Philbin worked as a political appointee in the Department of Justice during the Bush era, first as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel from 2001 to 2003, and then as an associate deputy attorney general in the Office of the Deputy Attorney General from 2003 to 2005.
Philbin was one of the lawyers who advised President Bush that, as the head of the United States’ executive branch, he had the right to charge Guantanamo detainees before military trials.
During the Bush administration, Philbin read the Torture Memos and raised concerns about their contents with John Yoo and Jay Bybee. According to the Office of Professional Responsibility, Philbin and any competent attorney “would have known or should have known” that Yoo’s actions were inappropriate and unjustifiable.
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According to James Comey, the Acting Attorney General at the time, Philbin was present when Comey rushed to John Ashcroft’s hospital bed in March 2004 to try to prevent other Bush officials – White House Chief of Staff Andy Card and the man who was then White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales – from persuading the very sick Attorney General to reverse Comey’s decision as Acting Attorney General not to renew the controversial warrantless wiretap programme during the Bush administration.
Comey stated that Philbin’s career suffered as a result of his support for Comey’s interference between Gonzales and Ashcroft; according to Comey, Vice President Dick Cheney barred Philbin’s appointment to the role of Principal Deputy Solicitor General, denying him the honour of collaborating on behalf of the government before the Supreme Court.
In 2005, Philbin returned to private practise as a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, where he concentrated on appellate litigation, complicated litigation, and data security. Philbin was named as Deputy Counsel to the President and Deputy Assistant to the President in the Trump Administration’s Office of White House Counsel in 2019. He was appointed to the defence team that represented President Trump in the first Senate impeachment trial in 2020.
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