University of Richmond T.C.Williams School of Law graduate Jenna Ellis has been making headlines since November 2019, after being appointed a senior legal adviser to then-President Donald Trump and his 2020 re-election campaign.
Ellis attended Colorado State University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism. She graduated from UR's law school in 2011.
"Richmond Law’s professors were the best part of my law school experience," Ellis wrote in an email to The Collegian. "They truly love the philosophy of law and teaching students, and I still keep in touch with several of my professors. Unlike the stories you hear of students merely surviving law school, I loved my time at Richmond."
After working as deputy district attorney for about six months, Ellis was fired for “unsatisfactory performance,” according to a document from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment that was obtained by The Colorado Sun. She had “failed to meet employer’s expectations” and “made mistakes on cases the employer believes she should not have,” according to a document, quoted in the Colorado Sun article.
“The number of cases in which [Ellis] committed an irreparable, egregious act was not significant compared to the total number of cases she processed,” according to the documents quoted in the article.
A spokesperson from the Weld County District Attorney’s office declined to comment about Ellis's firing to The Wall Street Journal, citing human resource rules.
After her firing, Ellis worked as a lawyer for IE Discovery, a firm providing legal help to the State Department, for six months, according to the Journal article. She continued to work as a criminal defense attorney for several small practices in Colorado until 2016, according to the Journal article.
In 2015, she became an affiliate faculty member at Colorado Christian University, where she taught law, ethics and leadership classes.
During her time there, Ellis helped develop and advise a moot court program, according to The Times. She remains a fellow in constitutional law and policy at CCU's Centennial Institute, which is CCU's "think tank, mobilizing ideas on faith, family, and freedom to strengthen America’s future," according to its website.
Although not initially a Trump supporter, Ellis began writing in support of Trump on social media after he was voted to be the then-Republican presidential nominee in 2016, according to CNN. She also began appearing on local Colorado talk show radio, such as KLZ 560 AM Conservative Talk Radio, as a constitutional law expert.
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In 2018, Ellis became the director of the Dobson Policy Center after leaving CCU. According to the center's Facebook page, “The Policy Center is dedicated to helping us understand our Constitution and Bill of Rights so that we can best preserve and protect religious liberty in America today and in the future.”
Ellis joined the 2020 Trump campaign’s advisory board in 2018.
In August 2018, Trump posted on Twitter a quote from one of Ellis's appearances on Fox News where she said the FBI was biased. A person close to Trump told Axios that Trump had been impressed by Ellis’s television appearances and wanted to give her a bigger position.
Sometime in October 2019, Ellis and Trump spoke over the phone, and a few weeks later they met for the first time in the Oval Office, according to Axios.
Trump invited Ellis to his Nov. 14, 2019, rally in Louisiana, which she attended, according to Axios. That weekend, Ellis was offered the position of “senior legal adviser to the Trump 2020 campaign and to the president,” according to Axios.
"Externally, my role was primarily focused on communicating the President’s positions and the Constitution to the American people on national and local media," Ellis wrote. "Internally, I advised the President on anything he needed or asked, including issues of constitutional law and executive authority."
Ellis wrote that her media and journalism experience had helped her communicate complex concepts regarding constitutional law analysis to the general public. Additionally, her constitutional law background and expertise was necessary to advise then-President Trump, she wrote.
Ellis began taking on a more prominent role amid lawsuits surrounding the validity of the 2020 election results, according to The New York Times.
"It was the honor of a lifetime to serve President Trump," Ellis wrote. "I love the law, our U.S. Constitution, and America, and to be one of the few attorneys in America that has personally advised and represented a sitting United States President is truly an amazing privilege. Beyond my job responsibilities, I also enjoyed getting to know President Trump and his family personally."
In 2015, Ellis self-published her book titled “The Legal Basis for a Moral Constitution: A Guide for Christians to Understand America’s Constitutional Crisis” through WestBow Press.
Ellis’s book “makes a compelling case for the true roots of America’s Founding Documents in objective morality and how our system of government is founded upon the Christian worldview and God’s unchanging law, not a secular humanist worldview,” according to its summary.
The book argues that America's founding documents, including the Constitution, can only be looked at through a biblical lens, according to the book's description. It also argues the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marriage could help legitimize polygamy and pedophilia.
In her book, Ellis wrote that the LGBTQ+ slogan "love is love" would become "the mantra of the pedophile," according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Trump legal team's strategy
After Joe Biden won both the electoral college and popular votes in the 2020 election, the Trump campaign began alleging election fraud.
His campaign — as well as outside parties such as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton— have brought challenges centered around voting technicalities to courts in six states. The Trump campaign lost more than 50 cases, including one at the Supreme Court.
“There’s a small issue, there’s a bigger issue,” said Hank Chambers, Austin E. Owen research scholar and professor of law at the UR law school, who has expertise in constitutional law and taught Ellis.
“The small issues are the specific [voting] procedures that are there," Chamber said.
"It’s perfectly reasonable for folks to make the argument that some procedures were not followed, and those get tested in court, and the courts said, ‘No, you lose’ [to Trump] — and said it over and over again in various cases across the country."
The specific voting procedures that were challenged included compromised voting software from Dominion Voting Systems Corp., manipulated machines that was supposed to verify voters' signatures and ballots being stolen, according to The Post.
“The bigger argument that was made, which was not really made in the court filings, was the claim about fraud in general,” Chambers said. “It’s interesting because you didn’t see the campaign put fraud allegations in their filing. Because those are legal filings, and judges get really upset when you put things in legal filings that are clearly untrue and that you can’t prove.
"So the arguments that were made were the technical arguments, but that’s separate from [the legal team's] bigger arguments that they made on courthouse steps or in press conferences or in front of legislative hearings.”
As of Feb. 23, Ellis's LinkedIn still says she is senior legal advisor for the Trump campaign. However, in the wake of President Joseph Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021, and the loss of lawsuits by the Trump campaign, it is unclear what Ellis's next career step will be. Nevertheless, Ellis encourages students who are interested in law to attend law school.
"It is an options-expanding graduate degree and you don’t have to be focused on one particular job after graduating," Ellis wrote. "I never thought my career path would take me to the White House!"
Contact international editor Maeve McCormick at email@example.com.
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