Congress Executive Branch

Jennifer Newstead Nominated to Be State Department Legal Adviser

John Bellinger
Tuesday, September 5, 2017, 10:55 AM

On Friday evening, the President nominated Jennifer Newstead to be the next Legal Adviser of the State Department.

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On Friday evening, the President nominated Jennifer Newstead to be the next Legal Adviser of the State Department.

I worked closely with Jennifer during the Bush Administration, and I think she is an outstanding choice (and would be in any Administration). She is exceptionally smart (she clerked for Judge Silberman and Justice Breyer), and her prior government experience has prepared her well to be Legal Adviser (she served as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy, Associate Counsel to the President, and General Counsel of the Office of Management and Budget). For the last twelve years, she has been a lawyer at Davis Polk in New York, where she has worked on numerous international matters. She has good connections with other lawyers in the Administration that should make her even more effective in interagency discussions.

I have grave concerns about President Trump and many of his domestic and national security policies. But he has chosen some very well-qualified lawyers with excellent experience and judgment to serve in key national security positions in his Administration, including Courtney Elwood at CIA, John Mitnick at DHS, John Sullivan at DoD (John was later nominated and confirmed as Deputy Secretary of State, which was good for State but a loss for DoD), Steve Engel at OLC, Brent McIntosh at Treasury, Cully Stimson at Navy, and John Demers in the National Security Division at DoJ. I appreciate the willingness of all of these individuals to serve and hope they will help to stabilize this Administration and ensure its respect for the Constitution and law, including international law, as well as longstanding American values.

As a final note, I would add that, if confirmed, Jennifer Newstead would be the first woman to serve as Legal Adviser of the State Department. The position was created by statute in 1931, replacing the Solicitor, which had been the chief legal officer of the State Department since 1891.

John B. Bellinger III is a partner in the international and national security law practices at Arnold & Porter in Washington, DC. He is also Adjunct Senior Fellow in International and National Security Law at the Council on Foreign Relations. He served as The Legal Adviser for the Department of State from 2005–2009, as Senior Associate Counsel to the President and Legal Adviser to the National Security Council at the White House from 2001–2005, and as Counsel for National Security Matters in the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice from 1997–2001.

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