Donald Trump’s increasingly ugly “opposition research” tactics

Despite repeated promises by Donald J. Trump to “drain the swamp” and public rebukes against lobbyists and big money and their influence on politics, President Trump continues to betray his true intentions with the hires he has made, and the people he has close to him. One example is Michael Roman.

Roman likely is not a household name, but in early 2017, Trump hired Roman as Special Assistant to the President and Director of Special Projects and Research. According to a June 20, 2017 article published by the International Business Times, Roman’s hiring was reported not by the White House, but by ProPublica. Roman reports to White House Counsel Don McGahn. What he does exactly in his $115,000 per year job is unclear, but what is clear is Roman’s connection to the Koch Brothers.

In a 2015 report by The Center For Media And Democracy’s PRWatch, “Koch Spy Agency Led by Voter Fraud Huckster,” Roman is described as being at “the helm of this ‘competitive intelligence’ operation” and making $265,000 when he was employed by the Koch Brothers’ Freedom Partners as its Vice President for Research. The article also describes Roman as the one behind the 2008 “New Black Panthers” video that Fox News showed repeatedly that fueled “unfounded allegations that the Obama administration’s Department of Justice was biased against white people.”

Roman then worked for, writing a column. The article also refers to Roman as “Koch’s top spy.” How this man came to have an office in the White House, and came to be doing opposition research, is a mystery, other than that McGahn was a lawyer for the Koch Brothers during the time that Roman was working for Freedom Partners. According to a February 2018 Politico article, White House officials and advisers were unclear on what role Roman played. The article noted:

Some said Roman is vetting special appointees by checking their social media footprints and financial backgrounds. A handful of people described Roman as McGahn’s researcher, while one described him as a “loyal soldier” to McGahn. Another characterized his work in the office as opposition research but could not specify what precisely that entailed. One White House official said he was heavily involved in extensively researching the background of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was selected a year ago.

While having opposition research employees has been done by prior administrations, what is unusual is having this type of position within the office of counsel. What is also unusual is this man’s background and why we don’t know more about him or how Donald Trump or the White House is using his services.

Daniel Cotter is a lawyer writing and teaching about SCOTUS, and married father of two boys living in Chicago, Illinois.