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New Virginia AG Makes Huge Move, Fires Woke University Lawyers, Including One Working on Jan. 6 Commission

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Virginia’s new Republican leadership is wasting no time cleaning house. Its dismissals have included attorneys for several of the state’s universities — one of whom is the top investigator on the U.S. House Democrats’ Jan. 6 committee.

The Washington Post reported Saturday that Attorney General Jason Miyares fired about 30 staffers just before he took office on Jan. 15. This included Tim Heaphy, counsel for the University of Virginia — currently on leave for his role with the committee investigating the Capitol incursion last year.

Miyares spokeswoman Victoria LaCivita said such firings are common and new attorneys general tend to appoint individuals who share their “philosophy and legal approach.”

This isn’t the first house-cleaning we’ve seen after the state’s November elections saw the GOP score a trifecta of victories — governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. It won’t be the last, either — and The Western Journal will keep you abreast of what’s going on in Glenn Youngkin’s Old Dominion. You can help us keep bringing readers the facts by subscribing.

In addition to the firing of Heaphy, Miyares fired Brian Walther, the counsel for George Mason University.

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Both are Democrats, something that has led the state’s Democratic lawmakers to call the firings an act of retribution.

Heaphy’s firing is the most controversial, given his position with the Jan. 6 committee. In a statement, LaCivita said he was a “controversial” hire by former Democrat Attorney General Mark Herring, who had “excluded many qualified internal candidates when he brought in this particular university counsel.”

“Our decision was made after reviewing the legal decisions made over the last couple of years,” LaCivita said, adding the firing had nothing to do with his work on the Jan. 6 committee.

“The Attorney General wants the university counsel to return to giving legal advice based on law, and not the philosophy of a university. We plan to look internally first for the next lead counsel.”

Were these firings called for?

Herring’s former chief of staff, Michael Kelly, criticized this characterization — calling Heaphy the first choice of the University of Virginia, which Heaphy had attended.

“Far from being controversial, his hire was celebrated by the university community and leadership,” Kelly said in an email to the Post.

This isn’t necessarily the endorsement it sounds like when you consider the state of academia, however — particularly since Heaphy helped implement the University of Virginia’s COVID vaccine mandate at a time when, as the Post noted, other “schools had been hesitant to enact such a measure because the vaccines did not yet have full approval from the Food and Drug Administration.”

Nevertheless, lawmakers on the left side of the aisle began wringing their hands over Heaphy’s firing.

“I am very concerned about this,” said U.S. Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria. “I am concerned that someone in a position like this [at the university] would be fired for political reasons.”

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State Sen. Scott A. Surovell also thought the firing was political payback.

“No attorney general has treated these positions as political,” the Democrat said. “By turning these positions into political jobs, it’s going to be very difficult for universities to hire the best talent in our state.”

That’s a curious position to take, however, when you consider Heaphy and Walther were both Democrats who were appointed by a Democratic attorney general.

In Heaphy’s case, he was a U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia appointed by former President Barack Obama. According to The Associated Press, he’d also led an investigation into the 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally.

If Herring chose Heaphy without treating the position “as political,” it certainly seems felicitous he ended up with someone who had those Democrat bona fides.

While his firing might not have to do with his position on the Jan. 6 committee, it might be more accurate to say the firing had to do with him being the kind of attorney who would be retained by the committee in the first place.

Note how the Post’s Justin Jouvenal and Lauren Lumpkin reported on the potential repercussions if Heaphy’s firing is perceived as being retribution for working with the Jan. 6 committee.

“Democrats and the panel’s two Republicans — Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) — argue that the attack, which was an effort to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden as the election’s victor, was a threat to democracy and should be fully investigated,” they wrote.

“Cheney and Kinzinger have become outcasts from their party for participating in the probe, and several Republicans are calling for them to be kicked out of the House Republican Conference.

“Heaphy’s firing could further inflame the tensions around the committee if it is viewed as an act of political retribution.”

What’s conveniently elided over here is why Cheney and Kinzinger got ejected from the House Republican Conference for participating in the committee, which is as rigged as a pro wrestling match.

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was convening the committee, she invited the House GOP to submit representatives to sit on it. House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy submitted his choices — and she rejected two of them, Reps. Jim Banks of Indiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio.

When Republicans weren’t allowed to freely choose who could represent them on the committee, which was to be guided by House Democrats, it confirmed the kangaroo committee nature of the whole endeavor. McCarthy withdrew all GOP participation and the only Republican representation on the committee came from Cheney and Kinzinger — who had long been RINO outliers within the House Republican caucus, both over former President Donald Trump and other matters.

And how did they get seated on the committee? By invitation from Pelosi, of course.

Thus, the ostracism isn’t just because Cheney and Kinzinger were on the committee, it’s that they were both the type of politician who’d accept a position on a naked partisan endeavor, a select committee that was little more than a paid political exercise for the Democrats.

There’s a marked difference between those two things, and conservative politicians aren’t obligated to suffer these individuals so as to avoid “inflam[ing] the tensions around the committee.”

The decision to join this shameless political undertaking was hardly an aberration for either Cheney or Kinzinger — and, if anything, the fact they stuck around the House Republican Conference for so long is proof, if nothing else, that the GOP in the lower chamber is nothing if not patient.

There’s no evidence, meanwhile, that Heaphy’s work with the committee directly led to his departure. Rather, he’s nothing if not a man of the left — and there’s now a GOP attorney general who “wants the university counsel to return to giving legal advice based on law, and not the philosophy of a university.”

No one should be genuinely surprised or angry Heaphy is out of a job. After all, as the president who appointed him to be a U.S. attorney once notoriously declared, elections have consequences.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Birthplace
Morristown, New Jersey
Education
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture




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