In advance of Thursday’s opening of the annual convention of the Federalist Society, more than a dozen prominent conservative lawyers have joined together to urge their fellow conservatives to speak up about what they say are the Trump administration’s betrayals of bedrock legal norms, The New York Times reports. The group, called Checks and Balances, was organized by George T. Conway III, a conservative lawyer and the husband of President Trump’s counselor, Kellyanne Conway. The new group also includes John B. Bellinger III, a top State Department and White House lawyer under President George W. Bush; Tom Ridge, a former governor of Pennsylvania and secretary of homeland security in the Bush administration; Peter D. Keisler, a former acting attorney general in the Bush administration; two prominent conservative law professors, Jonathan H. Adler and Orin S. Kerr; and Lori S. Meyer, a lawyer who is married to Eugene B. Meyer, the president of the Federalist Society.
In interviews, the group’s members said they did not speak with a single voice and had varying concerns about the administration’s policies. But they said they took action to encourage others to speak out. “There’s a perception out there that conservative lawyers have essentially sold their souls for judges and regulatory reform,” Conway told the Times. Keisler said it was urgent to have an open debate about the administration’s actions. “The president has attacked the Justice Department for indictments of Republican congressmen on the stated ground that prosecutions would hurt Republican chances in the midterm elections, and he’s urged that the Justice Department investigate his political opponents,” Keisler told the Times. “That’s a fundamentally wrong and very dangerous view of the criminal justice system, and people from both parties and across the political spectrum should condemn it.”