Lanny Jesse Davis
December 12, 1945
|Education||Yale University (BA, JD)|
|Known for||Former Clinton family advisor, political strategist|
|Elaine Charney (divorced)|
Lanny Jesse Davis (born December 12, 1945) is an American political operative, lawyer, consultant, lobbyist, author, and television commentator. He is the co-founder and partner of the law firm of Davis Goldberg & Galper PLLC, and co-founder and partner of the public relations firm Trident DMG. From 1996 to 1998, he served as a special counsel to President Bill Clinton, and was a spokesperson for the President and the White House on matters concerning campaign-finance investigations and other legal issues.
In July 2018, Davis was hired by Michael Cohen, a former personal attorney to Donald Trump, to represent Cohen in his testimony before Congress regarding President Donald Trump. Davis later represented Cohen when he pleaded guilty to tax fraud, bank fraud, and violation of campaign finance laws on August 21, 2018.
Davis's clients have included Porton Group, National Women's History Museum, National Black Chamber of Commerce, eHealth, Sofitel Hotels, Trent Lott, Gene Upshaw, Dan Snyder, Martha Stewart and the Office of the President at Penn State University. Davis has been a regular television commentator and political and legal analyst for MSNBC, CNN, CNBC and network television news programs. He wrote a column called "Purple Nation," and his writing appeared in publications including Fox News, The Hill, The Huffington Post, and The Daily Caller. A Yale Law School graduate, he won the Thurman Arnold Moot Court prize and served on the Yale Law Journal.
In 2005, President George W. Bush appointed Davis to serve as the only Democratic member of the five-member Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created by the U.S. Congress as part of the 2005 Intelligence Reform Act.
Davis grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey, in a Jewish family. His father, Mort, was a dentist in Jersey City and his mother worked as the office manager of his father's dental office. He attended Newark Academy in Newark, graduating in 1962. As an undergraduate at Yale, he was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. According to an item in U.S. News & World Report, as part of his initiation into the fraternity, Davis underwent hazing by, among others, the future President of the United States George W. Bush. He also served as chairman of the campus newspaper, the Yale Daily News. Davis went on to receive his J.D. degree from Yale Law School in 1970. It was there that he first met Hillary Clinton.
Davis has four children, and now lives in Potomac, Maryland, with his second wife, Carolyn Atwell-Davis, who is the legislative affairs director for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. One of his sons, Seth, was a columnist for Sports Illustrated magazine and is a college basketball commentator for CBS.
From 1970 to 1972, Davis was National Director of Youth Coalition for Muskie, the youth organization of Edmund S. Muskie's unsuccessful campaign for the 1972 Democratic Party Presidential nomination.
Davis served three terms (1980-1992) on the Democratic National Committee representing the State of Maryland. In 2005 President Bush appointed Davis to serve as the only Democrat on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.
Davis started his legal career as an associate at Patton Boggs in 1975 and became a partner in 1978. He served as special counsel to the President from 1996 to 1998, during which time he also was the spokesman for Clinton in issues regarding campaign finance investigations and other legal issues, including President Clinton's impeachment trial.
After leaving the White House, Davis returned to Patton Boggs. There he worked as a lobbyist for the nation of Pakistan prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001. In 2003, Davis became a partner in Washington, D.C. office of the law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. There, he provides counseling to corporations and government contractors on crisis management. He left the firm in late 2009 to join McDermott Will & Emery, but separated from the firm seven months later to open his own company, Lanny J. Davis & Associates.
He was a senior advisor and spokesman for the Israel Project. In 2009, he did "damage control for hawkish Democratic congresswoman Jane Harman over the American Israel Public Affairs Committee leak story".
In January 2012 Davis launched a new public affairs firm, Purple Nation Solutions. Davis also joined the Philadelphia-based law firm of Dilworth Paxson L.L.P. in March 2012, practicing out of the firm's Washington office and focusing on "legal crisis management."
In October 2012 Davis was the subject of a CBS Sunday Morning segment where he took investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson behind the scenes into the world of lobbying, focusing on his work for eHealthInsurance. In October 2013 Davis began acting as outside legal counsel to the Washington Redskins to help defend the organization's nickname. He also represented Kathleen Kane and Bo Dietl in his solo practice.
In 2016, at the age of 70, Davis co-founded the law firm of Davis Goldberg & Galper with partners Adam Goldberg and Joshua Galper, stating that he needed to continue supporting his family but was too busy to handle his workload by himself. In addition to co-founding Davis Goldberg & Galper, Davis started a new PR firm, called TridentDMG, in partnership with Eleanor McManus, who had worked with Davis since 2010 and previously served as a senior producer for CNN's "Larry King Live."
In July 2018, Davis was hired by Michael Cohen, a former personal attorney to Donald Trump, to represent him as co-counsel in the Stormy Daniels-Donald Trump scandal. Davis encouraged Cohen to reveal that he and Trump had discussed a payment surrounding a different affair with model Karen McDougal. Davis later revealed that Cohen had secretly recorded the conversation with Trump, and he released a tape of the conversation to CNN, which played it on the air. On it, Trump and Cohen can be heard discussing how to make a payment for "all of that info regarding our friend David," interpreted as meaning David Pecker, the head of American Media which publishes the National Enquirer.
Davis continued to serve as Cohen's attorney when Cohen came under federal criminal investigation by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and papers and other materials were seized from Cohen in April 2018 under a subpoena. Davis helped Cohen to negotiate a plea bargain under which he agreed to plead guilty to several charges in return for leniency in sentencing. On August 21, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight charges: five counts of tax evasion, one count of making false statements to a financial institution, one count of willfully causing an unlawful corporate contribution, and one count of making an excessive campaign contribution at the request of a candidate or campaign.
After Cohen's guilty plea and conviction, Davis made several public comments, indicating that Cohen is ready to "tell everything about Donald Trump that he knows", and alluding to Cohen's knowledge which could be used against Trump. He later added that he believed Cohen would agree to testify before Congress, even without immunity. He also rejected the possibility of a presidential pardon from Trump, saying that Cohen would "never accept a pardon from a man that he considers to be both corrupt and a dangerous person in the oval office." However, Davis later contradicted that statement; saying that during the weeks after Cohen's home was raided by the FBI, Cohen "directed his attorney to explore possibilities of a pardon at one point with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani as well as other lawyers advising President Trump".
In 2000 Davis lobbied on behalf of Pakistan's government while U.S. President Bill Clinton was in deliberations over whether to visit the country. Those lobbying on behalf of neighboring India, at the time, said such a visit would be legitimizing a terrorist state. In regards to the negotiations Davis stated, "Whatever we might say about this particular government in Pakistan, it has immediately indicated a willingness to negotiate. Nobody has yet explained why India refuses to sit down and negotiate, that's why President Clinton's involvement is so important."
In July 2009 Davis represented the Honduran Business Council and testified publicly before the House Western Hemisphere Subcommittee on its behalf. He criticized the deportation of former President Manuel Zelaya but also supported a reconciliation solution based on principles of the rule of law and due process.
In 2010 Davis worked with the State Department's West African Bureau and the U.S. Ambassador to Equatorial Guinea to assist in transitioning to a transparent democracy that protected due process and human rights. These efforts culminated in a speech Davis wrote for the President of Equatorial Guinea that was ultimately endorsed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.
For ten days in December 2010, Davis represented the Washington, D.C. Ivory Coast Embassy and Ambassador and worked closely with the State Department's West African Bureau to facilitate a phone call from President Obama to the defeated president of Ivory Coast to try to persuade him to avoid bloodshed and make a peaceful exit from office. When the defeated Ivory Coast president refused to accept the phone call, Davis resigned. On January 1, 2011, the official spokesman of the U.S. State Department, P. J. Crowley, publicly acknowledged that Davis' role was "helpful".
In 1999, Davis wrote a memoir about his work in the White House titled Truth to Tell: Tell It Early, Tell It All, Tell It Yourself: Notes from My White House Education. His most recent book, which appeared in 2006, is titled Scandal: How "Gotcha" Politics Is Destroying America. The book received praise from politicians and commentators across party lines, including Senators Evan Bayh and Lindsey Graham.
Davis has also served as a frequent political commentator on television, radio, and newspapers.
In 2006, through opinions expressed in The Wall Street Journal (August 8, 2006) and on Fox News, Davis strongly supported longtime friend Joseph Lieberman in his losing bid against Ned Lamont for the Democratic Party nomination for the post of U.S. Senator from Connecticut. He then continued to support Lieberman when he ran and won the General Election as an Independent.
In 2008, Davis supported Senator Hillary Clinton in her race for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, and has appeared on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC as a surrogate for her. After Clinton conceded, Davis went on to support Barack Obama.
In 2008, Davis questioned the United States' response to the conflict between Russia and Georgia and advised present and future U.S. leaders to consider the point of view of the Russian leaders before unilaterally supporting the government of Georgia in the conflict.
Currently, Davis appears weekly on three radio programs: America's Morning News Radio Show with John McCaslin, WMAL's Mornings on the Mall, and Andy Parks Live. He was a participant in the D.C.'s Funniest Celebrity competition in 2011.
This article's Criticism or Controversy section may compromise the article's neutral point of view of the subject. (March 2019)
Glenn Greenwald, a lawyer and columnist for Salon, criticized Davis in 2009 for Davis's perceived failure to disclose his clients. Greenwald asserted his clients included dictatorships and opponents of unions and health care reform.
According to Salon columnist Justin Elliot, Davis "specializes in lobbying for controversial corporate and foreign clients, particularly those seeking Democratic representation in Washington". He has "built a client list that now includes oligarchic coup supporters in Honduras, a dictator in Equatorial Guinea, for-profit colleges accused of exploiting students, and a company that dominates the manufacture of additives for infant formula", as well as an "Ivory Coast strongman whose claims to that country's presidency have been condemned by the international community and may even set off a civil war". Among his clients are "Ivory Coast leader and flagrant human rights violator Laurent Gbagbo" and "Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the longtime dictator of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea." "Just as Davis was assuring the American press that his client, Gbagbo, opposed violence, Gbagbo's forces were in fact mounting a campaign of organized violence against the opposition". The latter representation has earned him criticism from human rights groups, who claim that he "appears to be engaged in little more than a whitewashing exercise designed to rehabilitate the image of the Obiang regime on the international stage". Similar criticisms were aired in an acerbic exchange with Jon Lovett in The Atlantic.
At the time of the events in the Ivory Coast, State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley issued the following statement: "Lanny did open another alternative channel of communications for us, and was providing the right advice to his client. President Gbagbo has declined to engage our ambassador, Phillip Carter. Absent that avenue, Lanny became another route to encourage President Gbagbo to leave. Unfortunately, every indication is that his client wasn't heeding his advice."
Some of Davis's emails with Hillary Clinton were released to the public as part of the Hillary Clinton email controversy. The flattering emails were characterized by some media members as "cringeworthy."
Miss Elaine J. Charney, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Sydney E. Charney of Forest Hills, Queens, formerly of Chicago, was married here yesterday to Lanny J. Davis, son of Dr. and Mrs. Mortimer C. Davis of Jersey City.