Facing a subpoena from the House Jan. 6 committee, former president Donald Trump has signed a new lawyer to represent him: Harmeet Dhillon, a Republican lawyer whose California-based practice caters to right-wing clients, especially high-profile culture war provocateurs.
The House Select Committee subpoenaed the former president to testify under oath on Nov. 14, six days after the midterm elections, which could keep Dhillon’s work for Trump brief: If Republicans win control of the House of Representatives, they are unlikely to keep the panel alive in 2023, and its outstanding subpoenas would expire.
In his choice of Dhillon, Trump has signed up a lawyer with legal skill, connections to major GOP figures and serious MAGA bona fides. Her firm has experience representing other top Trumpworld figures regarding Jan. 6 committee demands. And Dhillon has lengthy credentials in right-wing activism and name recognition in conservative circles.
A Trumpworld legal eagle
Since playing a bit part in the nomination of Trump — she gave a Sikh blessing at the 2016 Republican National Convention, where Trump was picked to run for the White House — Dhillon has cultivated a client portfolio of right-wing causes backed by a coterie of deep-pocketed, right-wing benefactors, including the Republican National Committee itself. She chairs the National Republican Lawyers Association, a 2,500-member interest group for GOP lawyers and law students.
At the same time, she has attracted several right-wing celebrity influencer clients who pursue legal action against political enemies or take actions against perceived government overreach.
Dhillon is also a frequent Fox News guest, appearing on the network’s prime-time shows to discuss hot-button topics like vaccine mandates, Hunter Biden’s laptop and the FBI’s raid of Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida estate.
The Jan. 6 committee
Dhillon’s law firm is well-known to the House Jan. 6 panel. It has represented retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn before the panel, as well as onetime Trump White House adviser Sebastian Gorka. It has also represented the listed organizers of Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021, rally, which has been a focal point of the committee’s investigation.
The committee subpoenaed Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, in November 2021. Among other topics, the panel was interested in Flynn’s Dec. 18, 2020, conversation with the then-president about whether to overturn the presidential election results by declaring a national emergency and seizing voting machines. Flynn had said on Newsmax, the Trump-friendly media outlet, that there was precedent to invoke martial law. He did not respond to an inquiry from Grid for this story.
In testimony before the panel, Flynn repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, including to a question of whether he believed in the U.S. government’s peaceful transition of power. Dhillon’s firm subsequently called the deposition “political theater.”
In December 2021, the House panel sought Gorka’s phone records. Dhillon Law Group attorneys filed suit on Gorka’s behalf, accusing the House panel of overstepping its authority. Gorka was initially listed as a speaker on websites promoting the event at the Ellipse that preceded the ransacking of the Capitol. The case is ongoing. Gorka did not respond to a request for comment.
Dhillon’s firm has also represented Amy Kremer and her daughter Kylie Jane, who run the MAGA group Women for America First. The Kremers were the listed organizers of Trump’s rally on Jan. 6 and were reported by Rolling Stone to have coordinated with senior Trump officials. The Kremers, through Dhillon Law Group attorneys, have denied the allegation and asked for a retraction from Rolling Stone. In September 2021, the Jan. 6 committee subpoenaed Amy Kremer and her daughter, seeking testimony relating to their contacts with senior Trump officials.
The Kremers did not respond to Grid’s requests for comment. Women for America First has denied involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol siege.
Connecting conservative causes, donors and influencers
Dhillon and her firm have represented clients who have taken on the state of California and others over a dozen times on covid-related issues, challenging public health measures like vaccine mandates and school and church closures. Many failed — but not all.
The firm represented conservative website the Daily Wire in a 2021 case that challenged the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates for private employers of over 100 people.
The Biden mandate would have required either weekly testing or vaccination for employees, and would have applied to over 80 million people. The Daily Wire case went to the Supreme Court, which blocked enforcement of the policy in January.
Culture-war legal battles rarely garner massive settlements, and the figures involved can’t always afford extensive legal representation. In 2018, Dhillon founded a nonprofit, the Center for American Liberty, which she promotes as “legal aid … for normal people.” While the group raises funds to take on cases, its tax returns indicate it outsources much of the lawyering to outside firms — primarily Dhillon’s own.
The organization has received nearly $1 million in support from the Adolph Coors Foundation, which supports right-wing causes like “crisis pregnancy centers” and Hillsdale College, its tax filings show. The foundation did not respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, Dhillon’s center pays out hundreds of thousands to outside law firms, including her own. In 2020, the most recent year for which the group’s tax returns are available, the center paid Dhillon Law Group over $800,000 for “legal and administrative” services.
Dhillon’s firm represents some of the most recognizable online influencers of the far right, who have targeted right-wing cultural enemies from mainstream Democratic politicians to anti-fascist activists to drag queen story hours.
Through the center, Dhillon has represented Andy Ngo, a right-wing provocateur and self-described journalist, in a case against Portland, Oregon-area anti-fascists. Ngo built a large online following as a professed authority on left-wing violence, but Ngo’s credibility and objectivity has been questioned, and he’s been accused of tagging along with far-right extremist groups. Ngo claims he was assaulted by left-wing protesters in 2019, and the case is ongoing. Ngo did not respond to a request for comment.
She also represents the right-wing group Project Veritas, which stages undercover stings. The group is under investigation for paying for a stolen diary belonging to Ashley Biden, the daughter of president Joe Biden. The group claims it was engaging in newsgathering. Project Veritas did not respond to a request for comment.
She also represents Chaya Raichik, whose Libs of TikTok social media account that has been criticized for facilitating the harassment of LGBTQ+ people, businesses and even a children’s hospital. “We 100 % condemn any acts/threats of violence,” she told the Washington Post. Raichik did not respond to a request for comment.
Dhillon’s eponymous law firm has been paid millions of dollars in fees directly by right-wing political groups, from the Republican National Committee to Trump-allied fundraising organizations.
Dhillon’s advocacy for fringe right-wing activism appears to date back to her teenage years. In 1985 at the age of 16, she enrolled at Dartmouth University and became involved with the Dartmouth Review, an independent conservative student newspaper. The student staff was accused by fellow students, staff and administrators of using the publication to stoke controversy on campus, often at the expense of minority students and faculty. Dartmouth’s president described the paper’s “bigotry and intolerance” in 1989, citing “its brazen attacks on blacks, women, homosexuals, Native Americans and Jews.”
In 1986, the university suspended 10 students affiliated with the newspaper after they destroyed shanties on campus constructed by students protesting the university’s investments in apartheid South Africa. Dhillon was not among the students suspended for the incident.
On Yom Kippur in 1989, the paper ran an antisemitic quote from Adolf Hitler as its credo (“I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator: By warding off the Jews, I am fighting for the Lord’s work.’”)
Interviewed at the time, Dhillon was upbeat about the paper and the role of its staff on campus. ‘’We are the anti-establishment now,” she told the New York Times.
Thanks to Lillian Barkley for copy editing this article.