Christopher Landau is an attorney with conservative ties and no diplomatic experience under consideration to be the next United States Ambassador to Mexico, BuzzFeed News reported.
Landau, who works at the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, is being vetted for the job and is believed to be “far along” in the process, multiple sources told BuzzFeed. It’s unclear if Landau is the only candidate being considered for the job.
While it is not unusual for an ambassador to not have diplomatic experience, the US Ambassador to Mexico would be thrust into a difficult position given President Donald Trump’s criticisms of the country and its leaders. The US has not had an ambassador to Mexico since Roberta Jacobson resigned in May.
Jacobson later wrote an op-ed in The New York Times criticizing the “chaos” under Trump.
“Some chaos is normal at the start of an administration,” she wrote. “But it has been extreme under Mr. Trump … Moreover, the disconnect between the State Department and the White House seems intentional, leaving ambassadors in impossible positions and our allies across the globe infuriated, alienated and bewildered.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Christopher Landau is a Longtime Appellate Lawyer
According to his official bio, Landau works as a partner at Quinn Emanuel’s Washington, D.C. office with a focus on appellate litigation. He previously was a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, leading their appellate litigation practice for more than two decades.
According to BuzzFeed News, Landau has represented the government of Puerto Rico, BP PLC after the Deepwater Horizon spill, and biotech companies. His bio adds that he has argued in front of the Supreme Court, every one of the federal courts of appeals, and numerous state appellate courts.
In 2017, Landau was appointed to the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Appellate Rules, which provides recommendations for changes to federal appellate rules.
2. Christopher Landau Was Under Consideration For Other Top Jobs
BuzzFeed News previously reported that Landau was being considered as a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s vacated seat on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. The appointment eventually went to Neomi Rao, the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget.
In December of 2016, he was reported by the National Law Journal to be a contender for the Justice Department’s solicitor general job. The job ultimately went to Noel Francisco, who previously worked in the White House Counsel’s office and the Department of Justice in the George W. Bush administration.
Prior to being considered for multiple jobs by the Trump administration, Landau served as an advisor to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.
3. Christopher Landau Clerked For Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas
Landau served as a clerk to then-Judge Clarence Thomas while he served on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in 1990 and then served as a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia from 1990 to 1991. He then served as a clerk to Thomas again from 1991 to 1992, this time on the Supreme Court.
Judge Laurence Silberman of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, who recruited Landau to represent federal judges who sued federal lawmakers for violating the Constitution by denying them legally mandated salary increases, praised Landau to Buzzfeed as “a man of restraint and careful temperament, and he’s quite brilliant.”
4. Christopher Landau is The Son of a Career Foreign Service Officer
Landau was born in Madrid, Spain, where his father, a career U.S. Foreign Service Office, was stationed at the US Embassy in the city, according to his bio. He later moved around with his father to Canada, Paraguay, Chile, and Venezuela.
He is fluent in Spanish and received a Certificate in Latin American Studies from Harvard. He wrote his senior thesis about United States relations with Venezuela in the 1940s.
Landau graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and received the Sears Prize, which goes to students who receive the highest grade point averages in their class.
5. Experts Worried Christopher Landau Too Inexperienced for Ambassador Job
A Congressional staffer who works closely on international affairs warned that Mexico’s new president-elect, a leftist whose personality and rhetoric has been compared to that of Trump’s, will make a for a difficult negotiating partner.
“As President-elect Lopez Obrador transitions into power, President Trump needs to finally understand Mexico will always be one of the most important bilateral relationships we have. There is no binary decision between leaving ambassadorships vacant or filling them with political supporters unprepared to manage global diplomacy and defend our national interests,” the staffer said.
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