Makan Delrahim, who has emerged as a possible U.S. Attorney General pick for President Donald Trump, is an Iranian-born lawyer who is an Assistant Attorney General supervising the Antitrust Division.
He is an immigrant to the U.S. “My life experience reaffirms that we live in the greatest country in the world,” he said in a speech at a naturalization ceremony in which he described his background. You can read the full questionnaire that Delrahim filled out when he went through a previous confirmation process here; it describes all of his work assignments and gives some biographical information.
Delrahim has close ties to the White House and Trump administration. He served as deputy assistant to the president and deputy counsel to the president from January 2017 until becoming assistant AG. He was a volunteer attorney for the Trump-Pence transition team from December 2016 to January 2017. His name emerged November 29, 2018, as a possible replacement for ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions. You can see his previous confirmation hearing transcript here.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Delrahim Became an U.S. Citizen in 1992 & Was Born in Tehran, Iran to an Iranian-Jewish Family
Delrahim described his background in a speech he gave at a naturalization ceremony in 2018 in Washington D.C. “I became a citizen in 1992 when I was in law school here in Washington, D.C.,” he revealed in that speech.
“I was born in Tehran, Iran. Although anti-Semitism was a fact of life for my Iranian-Jewish family, my life changed forever when the Shah was deposed and a hostile revolution caused my family to flee.”
The Delrahim family settled in Los Angeles, California. “We began anew in Los Angeles in 1979,” he said in the speech. “As many of you know, Los Angeles is a diverse place that is home to people of different religions, ethnicities, nationalities, and ideologies. Los Angeles will always be home and I am forever grateful to the community that embraced me and my family. I still visit my elementary school and take my kids to that small town where I grew up.”
His confirmation questionnaire says that Delrahim attended the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television; received an M.S. in biotechnology from John Hopkins University; received a law degree from George Washington University School of Law; attended American University for a year; and received a B.S. in Kinesiology from UCLA. He has been a member of the Republican Jewish Coalition.
He is married. In 2009, The Jewish Journal reported, “A small group of local Jewish and non-Jewish supporters of Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) attended a cocktail fundraiser at the Malibu home of Iranian Jewish couple Makan and Michelle Delrahim.”
2. Delrahim Worked at His Father’s Gas Station Growing Up & Praised Anti-Government Protests in Iran
Soon after arriving in the United States, Delrahim says, he “learned English and my family embraced American life.”
His father ran a gas station after coming to America. “Some of my fondest memories of our early years in the United States include working at my dad’s gas station. I pumped gas, changed oil, tuned up cars, and sold tires. Those experiences taught me a lot more than just how to work on a car,” Delrahim said in the speech. He told Recode that he considers the time in Los Angeles to be his “formative” years.
“My father, and others in my family who worked hard to feed their families, embodied the American entrepreneurial spirit and I am grateful that my father made the American dream possible for myself and my sisters,” Delrahim said in the speech. “He taught me the value of hard work, resilience, and dedication. He went through much hardship, but persevered. Like many of you, I strive to teach my three children these lessons each day.”
In January 2018, Delrahim described anti-government protests in Iran as “heartening” in an interview with the Voice of America. In that interview, he criticized the Iranian government for blocking its people from using technology.
“I think any country that tries to limit people’s access to technologies that improve their lives, does that to their own ultimate disadvantage,” he told VOA.
The story reported that he came to America when he was 10, and quoted him as saying, “As somebody who has a desire to go back and experience the culture and history of the country once again,” he said, “it is an exciting time to watch [Iran’s latest anti-government protests].”
3. Makan Delrahim Supervises the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, Produced a Film & Once Optioned a Reality TV Show
In his confirmation questionnaire, Delrahim said that he is an executive producer of and investor in a feature film called Trash Fire through the entity Trash Fire, LLC. The IMDB page for the movie describes it this way: “When Owen is forced to confront the past he’s been running from his whole adult life, he and his girlfriend, Isabel, become entangled in a horrifying web of lies, deceit and murder.” It starred Adrian Grenier.
Daily Variety called the film “an aggressively unpleasant black comedy with modest horror flourishes.” The trade magazine added, “Gunning for cult status, the pic may find a small following among those who prefer their dialogue exclusively delivered in the form of insults, put-downs and offensive outbursts.”
He co-founded a technology company called Preconcile LLC, which sought to “provide easier access to litigants of small claims who may not get resolution due to legal fees or inconvenience.”
He also said that he was creator of a television concept he optioned to Pilgrim Films, a “producer of reality television shows.” The show was tentatively titled “Ultimate Justice” and was called “a legal reality concept.”
He has been involved with the Aleph Institute in Los Angeles providing free assistance “to the imprisoned in providing religious relief during high holidays to Jewish (as well as some non-Jewish) prisoners.” He was also providing pro bono legal assistance to seek the reversal of the conviction of “a religious prisoner” in the case of U.S. v. Sholom Rubashkin.
According to his U.S. Department of Justice biography, Makan Delrahim was confirmed on September 27, 2017, “as Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division.” When he was chosen for the position, The New York Times wrote that he “will help shape the corporate competition landscape for the next few years.” The fact he’s already won confirmation may appeal to Trump because it could make Delrahim’s confirmation as AG an easier prospect.
The Times says his views contrast with the Obama administration, which “took a more aggressive approach in antitrust toward protecting innovation, especially in the technology industry.”
However, according to VOA, under his supervision, a federal lawsuit was filed “to try to block U.S. telecom giant AT&T’s proposed takeover of American media conglomerate Time Warner.” A September 2018 article in Recode said the government “lost that attempt, but is appealing the ruling.” CNN reports that the move “puzzled a number of legal experts and contradicted Delrahim’s own prior stance.”
In a speech, Delrahim explained his antitrust philosophy, saying, “We don’t pick winners and losers at the Antitrust Division, but protect competition on the merits and enforce the laws equally. Hard nose competition ensures lower prices, increased innovation, higher quality goods and services, and improved opportunities for entrepreneurs to succeed.”
Delrahim’s “rich antitrust background covers the full range of industries, issues, and institutions touched upon by the work of the Antitrust Division,” continues the DOJ biography. “He is a former partner in the Los Angeles office of a national law firm. He served in the Antitrust Division from 2003 to 2005 as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General, overseeing the Appellate, Foreign Commerce, and Legal Policy sections.”
The bio continues: “During that time, he played an integral role in building the Antitrust Division’s engagement with its international counterparts and was involved in civil and criminal matters. He has served on the Attorney General’s Task Force on Intellectual Property and as Chairman of the Merger Working Group of the International Competition Network.” Delrahim was also a Commissioner on the Antitrust Modernization Commission from 2004 to 2007.
4. Delrahim Once Worked for Google & Urged People to Vote for Donald Trump to Save the U.S. Supreme Court
In March 2016, Delrahim wrote an op-ed in the New York Post urging people to vote for Donald Trump. The opinion piece was titled, “To save the Supreme Court, vote Trump over Clinton.” In it, he argued against never Trumpers, writing, “Key Republicans say they won’t back Donald Trump if he’s the GOP nominee. That may make them feel good — and seem principled. But from a practical standpoint, it makes no sense. Not when the next president will choose one or possibly more justices for the Supreme Court.”
He said that Trump was not his favorite candidate, but he urged Republicans to support Trump if Trump became the nominee, writing, “There’s no glory in handing the Supreme Court to a Democratic president. But if we write off Trump, that’s what will happen.”
He later worked as a deputy to the then White House counsel Don McGahn.
Delrahim has ties to another Republican president: George W. Bush.
“Delrahim worked on antitrust issues for former President George W. Bush’s administration, and spent time in corporate law as an attorney for several major technology companies including Google,” the VOA profile on him reports.
He has spoken about the power of innovation, saying at a 2018 speech at Haifa, Israel: “Innovation is a topic that is near and dear to me. As a former patent lawyer, I have seen up close the dynamic power of innovation and the importance of providing the right incentives to those who create. America’s longstanding appreciation for innovation led it to protect patent holders in the United States Constitution, which was ratified in 1789.”
He referenced the big tech companies in that speech, saying, “With creativity and a little chutzpah, a start-up can radically change the competitive landscape in digital markets. Google leapfrogged over several incumbent search engines, and Facebook overtook MySpace. The iPhone surpassed Blackberry, Motorola and others. Netflix vaulted over Blockbuster and brought important competition to our video landscape.”
However, he added, “The cycle of dynamic competition and disruptive innovation undoubtedly benefits consumers. Innovation brings new goods and services to the market, reduces costs, increases efficiency, and fuels economic growth. The question, then, is how can antitrust policy best encourage and protect this beneficial innovation?” He concluded, “We should take action only with credible evidence of harm to competition and not harm to just competitors. We must balance the goals to protect the very incentives to innovate, but at the same time be prepared to intervene when anticompetitive conduct distorts the free market.”
According to his DOJ bio, Delrahim “previously served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy White House Counsel.
His confirmation questionnaire lists the following jobs: He was a partner at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP; co-founded the LLC called Preconcile in Baltimore, Maryland; was an adjunct law professor at Pepperdine University; was a member of the Trademark Public Advisory Committee for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; was a deputy Assistant AG for the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division; was a commissioner for the U.S. Antitrust Modernization Commission; was staff director and chief counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee; was an associate attorney for Patton Boggs, LLP; was a technology licensing analyst at the National Institutes of Health; was deputy director of Intellectual Property Rights for the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Back in 1991, he worked as a restaurant host and chef for Mom’s Grill Restaurant in Port Hueneme, California, and was a fitness trainer in Agoura Hills, California.
5. Delrahim Described His Values as Conservative & Was a Lawyer for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee
In a 2017 interview with The New York Times, Delrahim described his values as conservative. “I came to realize that my values identified with the conservative viewpoints of personal responsibility, hard work, respect for individual rights and appreciation of a limited role of government,” he told the newspaper.
However, the New York Times reports that he “has a reputation for forging bipartisan relationships. His wife was a Democrat when they met and has voted for Democrats.” He was also on the volunteer legal policy advisory team in 2016 for Marco Rubio for President and in 2015 for Scott Walker for president. He was a volunteer in 2007 for Young Professionals for Mitt.
Earlier in his career, according to his DOJ bio, Delrahim “served as antitrust counsel, and later as the Staff Director and Chief Counsel of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.” The New York Times says he worked at the latter for “Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah.”
Hatch released a statement after news broke that Delrahim was being considered as AG, writing, “Makan would be an outstanding choice. He’s one of the finest lawyers and most capable administrators I know.”
The Times also describes him as a lobbyist, reporting that, over the years, he was “the lawyer or federal lobbyist for clients including Ultimate Fighting Championship, Comcast, Google, Johnson & Johnson, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield.” He helped shepherd the Neil Gorsuch nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Times reports.
He’s also served on the board of directors for the World Poker Tour Foundation, Chrysalis, and on committees for the American Bar Association.