RICHMOND, Va. — The lawyer who will help Vice President Mike Pence navigate investigations into possible collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign is a powerful attorney in Virginia’s capital city and no stranger to political investigations in Washington.
Richard Cullen, who was hired by Pence to assist in responding to inquiries by special counsel Robert Mueller, served as Virginia attorney general and U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia before rising to the top of one of the most prominent law firms in the state.
“He’s a good lawyer, and at the same time understands the implications of public policy and politics, which makes him an excellent choice for the vice president,” said former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, whom Cullen replaced as attorney general when Gilmore stepped down in 1997 to run for governor.
Cullen, through a spokesman, declined a request for an interview. Aides to the vice president declined to say what prompted him to hire an outside lawyer. The president has hired his own longtime personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, to handle Russia-related inquiries.
Now 69 and chairman of the Richmond-based law firm McGuireWoods LLP, Cullen worked for Virginia officials during the Watergate and Iran-Contra investigations, and represented Tom DeLay during a lobbying scandal that resulted in no charges against the former House GOP leader.
He also was part of the team that represented Jonnie Williams Sr., the wealthy vitamin executive who testified under immunity for the prosecution in the corruption case against former Gov. Bob McDonnell.
During the 2000 Florida recount, Cullen was a member of former President George W. Bush’s legal team.
In the 1990s, he helped secure the passage of Gov. L. Douglas Wilder’s law — later repealed — that limited handgun purchases to one a month, and led Gov. George’s Allen’s successful effort to abolish parole in Virginia.
In the 1980s, Cullen was special counsel to Sen. Paul Trible during the Iran-Contra investigation, and in the 1970s, he served during the Watergate investigation on the staff of Rep. Caldwell Butler, who helped draft the impeachment articles for President Richard Nixon.
Allen, who tapped Cullen to be attorney general, described him as steady and trustworthy lawyer whose understanding of the media will be helpful amid intense interest in the Russia probe.
“He understands the whirlwind of the media and the frenzies that arise,” Allen said.
Mueller and congressional committees are investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible connections with Trump’s campaign.