Edwin Meese was the 75th US Attorney General, serving under President Ronald Reagan. After retiring from politics, Meese joined the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington DC. Meese has written a number of books about conservative philosophy and the Reagan legacy, and is considered a leading conservative voice.
So perhaps it should come as no surprise that Meese was on hand on Monday night, as President Trump announced his pick for the Supreme Court. Meese is now 86 years old.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Meese, Once a Sharp Critic of Donald Trump, Changed His Mind and Backed Trump After the Election
At the start of the last presidential campaign, Meese joined a group of conservative thinkers who called themselves “Conservatives against Trump.” The group banded together to publish an essay in the conservative magazine, National Review.
Meese criticized Trump for his “divisive” campaigning style. He said that Trump’s political attacks had “poisoned” the atmosphere among Republicans.
But after Trump won the election, Meese changed his position. Politico reported that Meese was heading a Trump transition group focused on the Executive Office of the President, which includes the Office of Management and Budget.
2. Meese Has Been Working To Bring Down Obamacare Since 2013
In 2013, Meese had organized a coalition called the Conservative Action Project. Meese’s self-stated aim was to bring down the then-new Affordable Healthcare Act, better known as Obamacare.
His plan was to defund the government the government unless Congress agreed to defund Obamacare.
In the end, in spite of high-profile speeches by Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, the plan fizzled out.
Meese said, “I think people realized that with the imminent beginning of Obamacare, that this was a critical time to make every effort to stop something.”
3. In a Federal Bribery Case, A Federal Prosecutor Said That Meese Was “Incompetent at Best, Corrupt at Worst”
Meese was allegedly implicated — although never charged — in a high profile corruption and racketeering trial that centered around a Bronx military contractor.
Meese’s friend E. Robert Wallach was sentenced to six years in prison and fined $250,000 for allegedly selling influence with the government. Wallach was charged with taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from Wedtech Corporation, a Bronx military contractor, in return for helping them get military contracts from the Reagan administration. Prosecutors believed that Meese was the middleman between Wallach and the Reagan administration, who helped make sure that Wedtech got the contracts.
But the prosecution could never prove that there was a link, and so Meese was never formally charged.
At the end of the trial, the prosecution said it was ridiculous to say that Meese and Wallach’s friendship hadn’t helped Wedtech get the contracts. He said that Meese was “at best incompetent and at worst corrupt.”
4. Meese’s Son Died in a Car Crash When He Was 19 Years Old
Meese and his wife had three children. In 1982, Meese’s son Scott was a sophomore at Princeton. He spent the summer working as a student intern for the Republican Senate Policy Committee on Capitol Hill.
One night, Scott was driving alone on the George Washington Parkway near McLean, Virginia when he apparently lost control of his car. The car swerved off the highway, skidded over 300 feet, and crashed into a tree.
Police arrived on the scene and pulled Scott out of the car before it burst into flames. They said that Scott was probably killed on impact. There was no evidence that alcohol was involved in the crash.
5. Meese Married His Childhood Sweetheart. She Was Also Accused of Financial Wrongdoing.
Meese married his high school sweetheart, Ursula Herrick. Ursula’s father was Oakland’s postmaster. Ursula won the “outstanding woman” award at the College of the Pacific in 1954. She went to graduate school at Radcliffe and then went to work as a deputy probation officer.
During Ed Meese’s confirmation hearing for attorney general, Meese and his whole family were closely scrutinized, and the family was accused of a range of financial misdeeds. Ursula was criticized for accepting a $150,000 bribe interest-free loan from a friend who later got a political job in the administration. At the same time, her husband was criticized for accepting valuable gifts, including a set of gold and jade cufflinks from South Korea.
Ursula told the Washington Post, “You know, they scavenge through our garbage.” And she complained that reporters were following the family to church. She said, “You should never feel uncomfortable about going to church but when you have photographers there filming you when you leave … it’s not a comfortable life. Nobody should have to live that way.”