If you don’t know who Jenna Ellis is, you are hardly alone. Many officials at the upper echelons of Trumpworld don’t really know her, either.
In more than a dozen conversations with senior figures in the White House, 2020 campaign, and broader Trump orbit, barely anybody had known Ellis as more than a blip on the Fox News radar—if that—before this October. “She literally came out of nowhere,” said one person close to President Donald Trump.
And yet, Ellis, a constitutional law attorney who’d worked since last year as the public policy director at the James Dobson Family Institute, has quickly gone from relative obscurity to talking directly with the president about politics and impeachment. In recent weeks, he’s reached out to her to ask about fighting back against his Democratic enemies, and has casually analyzed and praised her TV hits when she’s not around, say two people with knowledge of the president’s conversations.
“She gets it,” Trump has privately gushed in the past month, according to one of these sources.“I’m disappointed conservatives are acquiescing to the LGBT agenda… The Orlando shooting was absolutely terrible and tragic. But the response to this tragedy should not be embracing and advocating for gay rights.”— Jenna Ellis, after the Pulse nightclub massacre
More recently, Ellis says she’s even had the opportunity to flex her influence by counseling the president on his bombastic six-page letter delivered to Capitol Hill shortly before he was impeached this month, bashing Democratic leaders and insisting that “more due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials” in the 17th century.
“I reviewed [the letter]…but it’s 100 percent him. It’s perfect,” Ellis told PJ Medialast week. The letter’s drafting process included White House brass such as Trump’s immigration adviser and chief speechwriter Stephen Miller, though White House attorneys were largely cut off from the initial process.
As of November, Ellis has been a senior legal adviser to both the Trump campaign and the president, and she’s quickly earned accolades from Trump’s core group of political advocates, not just for her legal work but for her reliably on-message cable news appearances.
“Jenna is an accomplished legal mind and a valuable asset to the President and campaign team,” Kayleigh McEnany, the Trump campaign’s national press secretary, told The Daily Beast in a brief statement. “She is a strong advocate for the President and provides compelling legal analysis. We are thrilled she is on the team.” (Ellis did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.)
Indeed, Ellis has earned an honor befitting the president’s favorite aides, pundits, and public advocates: being retweeted by the big man himself. Trump even promoted a whole anti-impeachment tweetstorm of hers this month to his 68 million followers.
Behind the scenes, Trump is known to seek Ellis’ counsel, recently on matters pertaining to his impeachment, which Ellis has taken to her platforms on Fox and at the Washington Examiner to deride as a legal and political sham. From September to November, the West Wing promoted no fewer than five of Ellis’ Examiner columns in official White House newsletters.
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Ellis, meanwhile, has made herself seen at—where else?—the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., where she’s been pictured since November mingling with Eric Trump, Lara Trump, Fox host Jeanine Pirro, senior Trump campaign aide Mercedes Schlapp, and Marc Lotter, the campaign’s director of strategic communications.
Ellis already had some notable connections in Trumpworld that aligned her with both its public communications apparatus and the machinery it constructed to beat back the many investigations and legal challenges it’s faced since Trump took office.
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Prior to her promotion to senior legal adviser, Ellis had been a member of Trump’s 2020 media advisory board, a collection of TV and radio surrogates for the president and campaign that had been overseen by Trump campaign communications hand Mark Serrano. And according to state bar records in Colorado, she has also worked for Serrano’s firm, ProActive Communications.
Serrano also ran comms for the Patriot Legal Expense Fund Trust established to help pay legal bills accrued by White House aides and other Trump allies during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Ellis has also collaborating with two of Trump’s top outside allies, Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. and Charlie Kirk, who leads the pro-Trump student group Turning Point USA. Kirk and Falwell have teamed up to form the eponymous Falkirk Center and Liberty, a think tank devoted, more or less, to promoting Trumpism as a political philosophy. Ellis serves as an “ambassador” to the group.
Ellis’ roots are firmly in the Christian right. Her 2015 book, The Legal Basis for a Moral Constitution, argues that progressive judicial philosophy has spawned “a culture that lacks objective morality and embraces secular ideas” and urges the country to “get back to being a biblically moral, upright society.”
“In an increasingly politically and religiously diverse America, we have been sold the idea that the political questions of government, rather than being dependent on faith, are completely separate,” Ellis argued in a 2017 column. “But the Founders saw these questions of who we say Jesus is and what we say government is [as] inextricably intertwined.”
Much of her recent fire as a legal commentator has been aimed at the 2015 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. And while she couches those arguments in legal terms, Ellis has also exhibited some general antipathy to the gay community. Her book complains that the Supreme Court “told the LGBT community that their homosexual lifestyle was not just legal privately, but morally validated openly through government recognition and social celebration and therefore equally as valued as heterosexual unions.”
In the wake of a 2015 shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando that left 49 dead, Ellis penned a column that condemned the massacre, but bemoaned that it was being used to dignify homosexuality.
“I’m disappointed conservatives are acquiescing to the LGBT agenda,” Ellis wrote. “Let me be clear—the Orlando shooting was absolutely terrible and tragic. But the response to this tragedy should not be embracing and advocating for gay rights.” The piece was headlined, “Two Wrongs Do Not Make an LGBT Right.”
Ellis’ husband, David Rives, is also a Trump supporter who runs an online broadcast network devoted to promoting Creationism and frequently contributes video segments to the far-right conspiracy website WorldNetDaily. As his wife advised the Trump campaign over the summer, Rives signed onto a letter from a number of faith leaders calling for a “national day of prayer for President Donald J. Trump.”
Ellis’ elevation into the president’s inner sanctum comes as Trump’s historically strong support in the evangelical community has been challenged in some minor, but notable, ways.
Last week, the editor in chief of the prominent evangelical magazine Christianity Today published a scathing op-ed hammering Trump’s “profoundly immoral” conduct and calling for his removal from office. Hours later, Ellis penned Trumpworld’s rebuttal at the Examiner.
The Christianity Today op-ed “is so devoid of any pretense of understanding the Constitution I am genuinely embarrassed for evangelicals (of which I am a member),” she wrote. “Pious ‘Never Trumpers’ who feel morally justified about this impeachment charade are as morally reprehensible as Democrats.”