Neal Katyal

Partner at Hogan Lovells, Georgetown Law Professor

Fast Facts

Neal Katyal

Creator of special-counsel laws

Industry: Law
Key previous position: Acting Solicitor General
Education: Dartmouth; Yale Law
Notable fact: Argued 39 cases before Supreme Court

NJ50 Profile

Following the release of the Mueller report, Neal Katyal was looking forward to focusing on non-Trump issues for a change. Katyal, who had helped write the special-counsel regulations in the late 1990s, appeared frequently on cable television during the investigation to provide legal analysis. As the controversy died down, with Robert Mueller testifying before Congress on July 24, the Obama-era acting solicitor general intended to focus on criminal-justice reform—cash-bail reform, in particular.

“Then, obviously, with that phone call the next day, everything changed,” Katyal said.

President Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reignited Democrats’ calls for impeachment and, to Katyal, represented a “fundamental threat” to democracy that couldn’t be ignored. The case for impeachment this time, he said, was much clearer.

“I learned a bit on the Mueller investigation … that, basically, when it’s really complicated, it gives Trump a very serious advantage because he can just kick up a lot of dirt and confuse the issue,” Katyal said. “This, by contrast, is really simple.”

Katyal knows how to craft an argument. He’s argued 39 cases before the Supreme Court, more than any other minority lawyer, having broken the record in 2017 held by Thurgood Marshall. He has also appeared on House of Cards, playing himself, delivering the government’s oral arguments. 

In 2006, Katyal successfully challenged President George W. Bush’s implementation of military trials at Guantanamo Bay. Under President Obama, he defended the Affordable Care Act, John Ashcroft for alleged abuses in the war on terror, and the Voting Rights Act. He now works at Hogan Lovells and teaches constitutional law, criminal law, and intellectual property at Georgetown University.

Katyal has a book out this month, Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump. The backbone of that argument, for Democrats, should be Trump’s quid-pro-quo request for help from Ukraine, he said.

“[The Ukraine scandal] is so central to what our republic is about, and also so simple to understand,” he said.  “The rest is just gravy.”
Harrison Cramer