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By Mae Slater on
 May 10, 2024

Jack Quinn, Renowned US Lawyer And Former White House Counsel, Dies At 74

Jack Quinn, a distinguished figure in United States law and politics, died on May 8 due to long-standing health issues following a double-lung transplant in 2019.

The Washington Post reported that Quinn's death at his Washington home marks the end of a career that influenced several presidential administrations and courtrooms across the nation.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, on August 16, 1949, Quinn's journey in law and politics spanned over five decades.

Quinn was a notable lobbyist and White House counsel under President Bill Clinton and was also recognized for his controversial role in securing Marc Rich’s pardon.

The Journey from Brooklyn to the Heart of American Politics

Starting as a lawyer at Arnold & Porter in 1976, Jack Quinn quickly made a mark, becoming a partner and later heading the lobbying department.

His legal acumen caught the eyes of political stalwarts, leading him to a pivotal role in Al Gore's 1992 presidential campaign. His effectiveness during the campaign earned him positions as Gore's counsel and deputy chief of staff.

By November 1995, Quinn had risen to the role of White House counsel, a position that saw him navigating through some of the most challenging political waters of the time. This period included the Whitewater scandal and the controversial White House Travel Office firings—events that called for shrewd legal and political navigation.

Journalist Peter Beinart noted that Quinn's comments during the Whitewater affair were particularly supportive, suggesting they were "music to Clinton."

Challenges and Controversies: The White House Years

Quinn's tenure in the White House was not without controversy. During the tumultuous times of Bill Clinton's impeachment trials, he played a significant defensive role. His efforts were aimed at safeguarding the presidency against charges stemming from various investigations.

Regarding the scrutiny over the travel office firings, Quinn remarked it was "a desperate political act," displaying his protective stance towards the administration.

However, it was in 2001 that Quinn faced perhaps his most contentious challenge. He represented Marc Rich, a financier charged with tax evasion and having controversial dealings during U.S. sanctions. Despite significant criticisms, Quinn obtained a pardon for Rich on President Clinton’s last day in office.

His method included advising Rich’s former wife to write to Clinton, an act he described as "communicating with regard to a judicial proceeding." Peter Mirijanian, commenting on Quinn’s defense of Rich, expressed admiration for his representation, stating that Quinn was "smart" and "well-represented his client."

After leaving the White House Counsel's office in February 1997, Quinn did not step back from the limelight. Instead, he co-founded a bipartisan lobbying firm, leveraging his expertise and connections from his government days. His post-administration work was notable, particularly his involvement in the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which Sean Carter highlighted as essential in lobbying efforts leading to the law's enactment.

Despite his aggressive legal strategies, Quinn was also known for his philanthropic efforts and compassion, particularly in health-related causes, stemming from his own medical struggles.

He had faced hypersensitivity pneumonitis before his lung transplant, an experience that his wife, Susanna Quinn, noted was marked by "long-term complications."

Remembering a Formidable Legal and Political Mind

Surviving Jack Quinn are his wife Susanna, his children from various relationships, and twelve grandchildren, all of whom remember him not only for his formidable presence in courtrooms and political arenas but also as a family man devoted to his loved ones.

Despite the controversies and challenges, Quinn’s career was marked by notable successes and deep impacts on U.S. legal and political practices.

In conclusion, Jack Quinn’s life and career encapsulated the intersections of law, politics, and personal resilience. From his early days as a promising lawyer to his influential tenure in the White House, and his later years shaping significant legislative acts, Quinn left a lasting imprint on American politics and law. His death closes a chapter on a prominent legal and political era in American history.

Written By:
Mae Slater

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