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Former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Represents Harvard in Congressional Battle

Former Acting US Attorney General Sally Q. Yates speaks at a talk hosted by the Institute of Politics in 2017. Yates is representing Harvard in its ongoing battle with the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
Former Acting US Attorney General Sally Q. Yates speaks at a talk hosted by the Institute of Politics in 2017. Yates is representing Harvard in its ongoing battle with the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. By Gabriel C. Cederberg
By Emma H. Haidar and Cam E. Kettles, Crimson Staff Writers

Former United States Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates is representing Harvard in its ongoing battle with the House Committee on Education and the Workforce as it investigates the University’s response to campus antisemitism.

Harvard hired King & Spalding — a high powered law firm at which Yates is a partner — in January to provide legal counsel on the investigation, according to a person with knowledge of the agreement.

The committee subpoenaed three top Harvard officials over a series of confidential documents in February. After the University handed over documents the next month, House Committee chairwoman U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) slammed the submission as “malfeasance” and said the committee was considering further action.

Then the committee went silent.

Despite a private March 18 interview with Dara Horn ’99 — a former member of Harvard’s short-lived antisemitism advisory group under former University President Claudine Gay — the committee has not announced any further action against the University. A House committee spokesperson declined to comment on the status of the investigation.

Harvard’s decision to bring on King & Spalding — with Yates at its helm — to bolster its existing fleet of WilmerHale lawyers is a strong signal that Harvard believes its battle with Congress is far from over.

Yates served as U.S. Deputy Attorney General from May 2015 to Jan. 2017, when she was fired by former U.S. President Donald Trump just 10 days into his presidency for refusing to enforce his executive order barring travel from several Muslim-majority countries. Previously, Yates also worked for the Department of Justice for nearly three decades.

As a partner at King & Spalding, Yates specializes in congressional investigations, compliance, and government enforcement.

She represents Harvard alongside Daniel F. Donovan, a firm partner who specializes in government investigations.

Yates did not respond to a request for comment for this article. A Harvard spokesperson declined to comment on the University’s relationship with King & Spalding and Yates.

If the committee continues to push Harvard to submit additional and more private documents, Harvard’s lawyers will become increasingly important to the University’s strategy.

For the committee to compel Harvard to hand over documents — which include meeting minutes of the highest governing boards and internal communications between top administrators — they must hold the University in contempt of Congress.

Former general counsel to the House of Representatives Stanley M. Brand said in a March interview with The Crimson that before the committee escalates to that level, there will likely be a behind-the-scenes negotiation with Harvard’s lawyers.

“The University lawyers would have to decide — is there a middle ground they could take that would protect the privacy interests and the other interests that they have and still satisfy the committee?” he said.

—Staff writer Emma H. Haidar can be reached at emma.haidar@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @HaidarEmma.

—Staff writer Cam E. Kettles can be reached at cam.kettles@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @cam_kettles or on Threads @camkettles.

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