Philadelphia law firm Duane Morris is characterizing partner Bill McSwain’s political activities as “personal” and unrelated to the firm, after a letter from McSwain to Donald Trump about alleged irregularities in the 2020 election became public this week.
Trump tapped McSwain to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. McSwain left that role Jan. 22, after nearly three years, and joined Duane Morris as a partner Feb. 1. The former federal prosecutor launched a political committee in March, and has plans to run for governor of Pennsylvania next year.
McSwain told Trump he “would be honored” to have the former president’s support in that race, he said in a June 9 letter. In the two-page correspondence, McSwain also said Trump was “right to be upset about the way the Democrats ran the 2020 election in Pennsylvania — it was a partisan disgrace.”
McSwain wrote that his U.S. Attorney’s Office “received various allegations” of wrongdoing on Election Day. He said he wanted to “fully investigate any allegations,” but was instructed by then-U.S. Attorney Bill Barr “not to make any public statements or put out any press releases regarding possible election irregularities.” McSwain also said he was given a directive to pass any “serious allegations” to state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat.
McSwain told Trump he “disagreed with that decision,” but, as a former Marine, was trained to respect orders from above.
A spokesperson for Duane Morris did not comment directly on the letter. “We are thrilled to have a partner of Bill McSwain’s caliber at Duane Morris and he is a key part of our white-collar practice group,” the spokesperson said. “Bill’s exploratory political activities have been personal and don’t relate to the firm.”
“Overall, we look at Bill’s position as an apolitical, nonpartisan opportunity to serve our clients,” the spokesperson added. “Bill has strong credentials and relationships, which bring an enhanced perspective to his practice after serving as an United States Attorney.”
McSwain’s law firm practice focuses on white-collar criminal defense and internal investigations. Duane Morris CEO and chairman Matthew Taylor said earlier this year that McSwain would provide clients with a “unique perspective on highly sensitive and significant matters to their business.”
The firm’s political action committee donated $142,479 to federal candidates during the 2019-2020 election cycle, with 63% of those contributions going to Democrats and 37% going to Republicans, according to campaign spending data tracked by OpenSecrets.
McSwain did not respond to a request for comment. He tweeted Tuesday that he was “pleased” Trump shared the letter, “because I believe in transparency. The more people who know the facts, the better.”
Both Shapiro’s office and Barr, however, took issue with aspects of what McSwain wrote.
A spokesperson for Shapiro said the state AG’s office “received no direct referrals from Mr. McSwain’s office” about the 2020 election. “This personal note to President Trump, sent seven months after the election, is the first our office has heard of Mr. McSwain’s concerns,” the spokesperson, Jacklin Rhoads, said late Monday.
Barr on Tuesday denied he’d given orders as described by McSwain. “The letter is written in a very deceptive way that is intended to convey an impression, it’s a false one, that he was restrained from looking into election fraud,” Barr told The Inquirer. Barr said McSwain and other U.S. Attorneys had “discretion” to look into credible allegations of fraud.
In an interview with the Washington Post, McSwain stood by his account, saying: “If Attorney General Barr is claiming that I was not told to make referrals to the state attorney general’s office, I assume he is simply not remembering what happened or that he wasn’t always involved in the details.”