Ted Olson turned down President Donald Trump’s request to join his legal team in March 2018. Now he’s part of CNN’s lawsuit against Trump and other administration officials over the abrupt withdrawal of CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s access to White House briefings.
Olson served as a strong conservative voice in the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, and argued cases repeatedly before the the Supreme Court as a private attorney and as solicitor general under Bush. This included winning landmark cases like Citizens United, which expanded unfettered campaign spending, and upholding California’s marriage-equality law.
Trump’s legal team in March—Ty Cobb, John Dowd, and Jay Sekulow—discussed Olson joining the team at that time, as they attempted to recruit veteran lawyers with a reputation for probity and seriousness.
Olson ultimately declined, according to the Washington Post. Theodore Boutrous, one of the heads of the firm at which Olson is a partner, confirmed via Twitter that Olson had declined. Boutrous is also working alongside Olson on the CNN lawsuit.
Cobb left Trump’s legal team in May. Dowd left two days after Olson declined to join the defense. Sekulow remains, and heads the legal effort.
Olson said in a statement on Nov. 13 about the CNN case, “Mr Acosta’s press credentials must be restored so that all members of the press know they will remain free to ask tough questions, challenge government officials, and report the business of the nation to the American people.”
In the Reagan administration, Olson served as the assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel, and advised Reagan during the investigation phase of the Iran-Contra Affair. He presented oral arguments at the Supreme Court in 2000 in Bush v. Gore on behalf of George W. Bush, and won the case and Bush’s election. Olson went on to serve as Bush’s solicitor general in the administration’s first term.
Olson’s wife, Barbara Kay Olson, was killed in the Al Qaeda terrorist attacks against the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001. She was aboard the aircraft that was hijacked and forced to crashed into the Pentagon.
Olson partnered with David Boies, who had represented Al Gore in Bush v. Gore, to defend California’s marriage-equality act, which granted the state sanction of marriage to couples of any gender. Olson and Boies won that suit as well in a decision which expanded same-sex marriage to every state.
Earlier this year, Olson gave up his membership in the American Bar Association over its president’s call to investigate Brett Kavanaugh based on issues that arose during the hearings for his confirmation to the Supreme Court.