What’s it like to be a conservative lawyer in a liberal bastion like San Francisco? That’s exactly what Harmeet Dhillon does every day, and her clients include a dozen of the Covington High School teens, pro-life activist David Daleiden, and many others. Listen to the interview in the podcast or read the transcript below. Plus: Rob Bluey and Rachel del Guidice sit down with Congressman Mike Johnson, who now heads up the largest conservative caucus in the House.
We also cover these stories:
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This is a lightly edited transcript.
Katrina Trinko: Joining us from CPAC is Harmeet Dhillon, who is a lawyer who lives in San Francisco, so we know she’s used to defending what she believes in.
I wanted to start off with who you represent … clients who were injured in the 2016 Trump rally in San Jose, California, about an hour from San Francisco. Remind us what happened there, and how is the case going?
Harmeet Dhillon: Sure. On June 2, 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump came to San Jose for a big rally. I was actually at the rally and did the Pledge of Allegiance. It was a great event. The problem is that the city of San Jose has a liberal mayor, and they did not want Trump to come and so they tried to discourage it. Then he came anyway because California people wanted to hear him, and there were 250 riot gear-clad police from San Jose and surrounding jurisdictions there.
Basically, there was a very aggressive organized protest by people waving Mexican flags and shouting very aggressive anti-Trump epithets, and the police forced all the people who were leaving the event directly into the mob that was protesting the event and then stood there and watched people get assaulted, so we have, I think, 19 plaintiffs who were physically assaulted or chased or otherwise put into fear of their lives at this event.
We sued the city of San Jose, its mayor, its chief of police, and several other police officers on civil rights grounds for violating the civil rights of the attendees, and we were able to keep that case in court. After two motions to dismiss, the city of San Jose appealed it to the 9th Circuit where it languished for almost two years, but we—
Trinko: Really? In the 9th Circuit?
Dhillon: Yes, but we won in the 9th Circuit.
Trinko: Oh, wow. OK.
Dhillon: The court then sent the case back down, and now we’re in the middle of depositions, so we’re having depositions taken of our clients. We’re taking depositions of the police, and we are set by the court for a settlement conference with the federal judge to try to see if we can … broker a settlement.
Trinko: And do you have other political clients right now?
Dhillon: Many. I am also representing David Daleiden, who is the gentleman from the Center for Medical Progress who exposed the National Abortion Federation’s trafficking in human body parts. We’re representing him in the 9th Circuit in an appeal of one of the rulings in the district court case.
I am also representing teachers who are seeking to challenge the union dues in the post-Janus era that’s an ongoing soon-to-be-filed situation in California, and I’m representing families of 12-plus Covington kids who were the target of this mob hatred there, and James Damore, who sued Google for firing him for expressing anti-PC viewpoints in the workplace … and there are more, but those are a few.
Trinko: That’s a lot right there. How is James Damore’s case going? He, of course, as you mentioned, expressed unpolitically correct views. He suggested that maybe, if you look at women as a group and men as a group, they might occasionally have different skill sets, which I think a lot of us would say is common sense. How is his case going?
Dhillon: He didn’t even say they have different skill sets. He said that they have different approaches to problem-solving and that if Google wanted to attract women, which he thinks is a good goal, they need to look at those issues and make Google more attractive to women as opposed to simply forcing quotas down the throats of the workers.
His case, unfortunately, is stuck in arbitration, because workers in all these big tech companies file arbitration, sign arbitration agreements, so we are in arbitration right now with his case, another case of another person who was fired there, and then, in court, we have a class of job applicants who believe they were not hired because they were conservative, white, and male.
Trinko: So you’re in Silicon Valley. You’re representing clients who are no longer with these tech companies. Obviously, we all use Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, etc. Do you think these tech companies can be trusted when they say they want to be a platform for everyone, or do you have concerns?
Dhillon: No, they can’t be trusted. I’m going to be on a panel tomorrow with James O’Keefe, who exposed yesterday the equivalent of shadow banning at Facebook. We’re aware from his prior work of the shadow banning at Twitter, and the leaders of all of these companies, Google is really the worst of all of them, but they’re very liberal.
They wanted Hillary Clinton to win. She didn’t win, and they’re still trying to get their vengeance out of that. But some of these people have this messianic complex as they really want to change the world and shape it in a progressive way, and so I don’t think you can trust them at all.
In fact, many consumer lawsuits have been filed about privacy violations and so forth, so I’d love to see more conservatives take this issue seriously and not just say the market will shift and the market will handle these issues. There’s a certain point in time and a certain volume of power where the market cannot do that.
Trinko: You said you’re representing some of the teams who were involved in the Covington fake news crisis, for lack of a better term. What’s going on there?
Dhillon: One lawsuit has already been filed by a different lawyer for Nick Sandmann, and I can’t reveal the strategy, but there will be more lawsuits filed.
Trinko: Can you say what’s the hope here? Is it holding the media accountable, or what’s the overall goal?
Dhillon: Keep in mind it wasn’t just the media that attacked these boys. There were prominent liberals and politicians who doxed them, who called for them to suffer harm and their families to be shamed and suffer harm. The school was harmed, so it’s actually a much broader societal problem.
I think this problem of mob rule on the internet and group-shaming and destroying people’s lives over something they said or a smile or a smirk, if you have that, is a big societal-cultural problem that we need to address. So the courts are only going to be able to address so much, but we’re hoping to draw attention to these issues, and it’s bad on both sides when that happens.
Trinko: On that, I think a lot of conservatives are reluctant to often take things to the court. They don’t want to be lawsuit-happy, etc., but it seems like there’s beginning to be a shift where people are more comfortable, perhaps, realizing they don’t have any other option. Do you think that we’re going to see more of these battles fought in the courts going forward?
Dhillon: If we don’t see them, you’re not going to hear anything from conservatives. Nobody’s going to hear your podcast. Nobody’s going to hear from any of us in five years, so we cannot be fighting the wars of the 20th century with the tools of the 19th century.
We have got to fight back in the same way the liberals do. The minute the president signs an executive order, somebody files a lawsuit over it. Republicans and conservatives need to do the same thing.
Trinko: So what is it like for you being a conservative in the San Francisco area?
Dhillon: I was a conservative at Dartmouth College. I was a Sikh in the Deep South where I grew up, and I’m an immigrant. It doesn’t faze me. Popularity contest is not what I’m about, so I believe what I believe and I’m going to say it until my voice is muffled.
Trinko: Did you grow up conservative or did you become conservative, or what was that journey like for you?
Dhillon: My parents registered as Republicans when they became United States citizens, and I’ve always been a conservative.
Trinko: OK. Thanks very much for joining us.
Dhillon: My pleasure.