This Pro-Trump Lawyer Was a Rising ‘Stop the Steal’ Star. His Firm Erased Him
In the months since Trump’s failed coup, government documents have further revealed the extent of attorney Kurt Olsen’s behind-the-scenes crusade to try to keep him in power.
In late 2020, as then-President Donald Trump was waging a multi-front campaign to cling to power, a little-known attorney and self-described former special ops commander began working on Trump’s behalf, badgering senior Justice Department officials in an effort to rope them into the plot.
In the months since Trump’s failed coup attempt, government documents and emails have further revealed the extent of this attorney Kurt Olsen’s behind-the-scenes crusade to try to keep him in power. The twice-impeached former president had clearly taken a shine to Olsen and his work. But since the fallout from the 2020 presidential election, it appears that Olsen’s former colleagues want to distance themselves from him—to the point where his onetime law firm has effectively disowned him and airbrushed him from its history.
Olsen’s recurring appearances in the ongoing Capitol Hill investigations into what led to the MAGA riot on Jan. 6 raise some glaring questions. How did a virtually unknown private attorney and associate of extreme MAGA personalities stumble his way into influencing the functions of the executive branch—to the degree that the most senior DOJ personnel had to concoct plans to fight off his onslaught?
For 18 years, Olsen worked as a partner at Klafter, Olsen & Lesser, a small New York-based law firm he co-founded. But shortly after he signed on to help Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s failed bid to overturn the 2020 election at the Supreme Court, the firm changed its name and registered a new website—without Olsen’s name in the URL—on Feb. 24. Now, where Olsen’s bio used to be, a disclaimer says, “Kurt Olsen is not affiliated in any way with Klafter Lesser LLP.”
Partners at Klafter Lesser did not respond to requests from The Daily Beast for comment. Olsen did not provide comment, either.
Emails released by the House Oversight Committee and reporting by Politico show that after the election, the Maryland attorney rose from relative obscurity in conservative politics to capture the ear of then-President Trump. Despite his access, several lawyers and administration officials intimately involved with the anti-democratic effort did not know or simply couldn’t remember Olsen—a reflection of the disjointed and chaotic state of post-election MAGA politics as different factions pushed competing authoritarian ideas and fought amongst themselves
Out of six knowledgeable Trumpworld sources contacted for this story, several said they hadn’t directly dealt at all with Olsen, though they knew Trump was enamored by the ideas he was selling. One former senior Trump aide said they purposely avoided contact or involvement with Olsen, describing his legal theories as pure “nonsense.”
Predictably, none of that trepidation from Trump administration brass prevented the then-president from embracing Olsen or his fringe legal opinions.
Olsen’s ascent to the heights of MAGA activism began in December 2020 when Paxton put together a Supreme Court case to toss out Joe Biden’s electoral victory in Pennsylvania. The Texas attorney general reached outside his office for help and appointed two special counsels to assist in the case: Lawrence Joseph, a conservative attorney with experience filing briefs at the Supreme Court supportive of conservative causes and figures, and Olsen, whose office sat a few floors down from Joseph’s firm in the same Washington, D.C., office building.
The move placed Olsen, who had little-to-no national profile in conservative politics, at the tip of the spear in the Trump-backed effort to overturn the 2020 election in court. Prior to his legal career, the attorney “served as a Naval Special Warfare Officer assigned to SEAL Team Five” who “has traveled extensively in the Middle East and Far East, primarily as a special operations platoon commander,” according to a since-deleted bio at his former firm.
Paxton’s Supreme Court suit ultimately failed when all nine justices unanimously voted to throw it out on the grounds that the state of Texas lacked the standing to bring the case. Despite the suit’s failure, Olsen’s star continued to rise among the increasingly bizarre world of “Stop the Steal” notables.
Emails sent by Olsen to Justice Department officials, obtained by the New York Times and House Oversight Committee, show that after the Supreme Court tossed the Texas suit, Olsen managed to get in touch with Trump himself to brief him on an effort to revive the case.
At some point after the Texas suit’s failure, Olsen managed to get in touch with the president to pitch him on the idea of having the Justice Department bring a suit “modeled after the Texas action,” which would theoretically sidestep the lack of standing that had doomed the state-led effort.
“The President of the United States has seen this complaint, and he directed me last night to brief AG Rosen in person today to discuss bringing this action,” Olsen wrote in an email to the Justice Department. “I have been instructed to report back to the President this afternoon after this meeting.”
Olsen never got his meeting with Rosen, and the acting attorney general never took up Texas’ quixotic attempt to overturn the election. But, as Politico reported this month, the president’s interest in Olsen’s work grew so intense that in December, Trump himself made a point of bothering Rosen about the 54-page draft complaint that Olsen had been pushing to the highest levels of the federal government.
According to Politico, Rosen recently told Senate investigators that he counseled the then-president that the draft complaint was, at best, a waste of time.
Furthermore, Olsen’s name also appeared on a memo that was hand-delivered to Trump in his very last days in office—a memo that also appeared to include a recommendation on resorting to “martial law if necessary.” When pillow magnate and staunch Trump ally Mike Lindell visited the White House to brief Trump and administration officials and attorneys on his wild claims of Chinese hacking efforts in the 2020 election, Olsen’s name even appeared in a photo of documents Lindell brought to Trump, next to figures like Sidney Powell and Kash Patel, as suggestions for who Trump should appoint to senior positions during his quest to stay in power.
Lindell’s fondness for Olsen continued into the post-Trump era. As Lindell’s “cyber symposium” in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was ongoing last week, Olsen commented on a Washington Times story and was referred to as a member of the MyPillow CEO’s team of lawyers.
Olsen’s reported presence on Lindell’s legal team shows how he isn’t done associating himself with doomed efforts to overturn the 2020 election results or to reinstall Trump. The Aug. 11 Washington Times article in which Olsen is featured is headlined, “Cyber expert says his team can’t prove Mike Lindell’s claims that China hacked election.”