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Politics and Government

Jenna Ellis, President Trump’s lawyer, was fired from Weld County DA’s office for “mistakes,” records show

Documents obtained by The Colorado Sun through an open records request appear to contradict what Ellis told The Wall Street Journal about her termination

Jenna Ellis, senior legal adviser to the the Trump campaign, speaks at a Trump bus tour campaign event on Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)
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Jenna Ellis, the attorney from Colorado representing President Donald Trump in his bid to overturn his 2020 election loss, was fired from her job as a Weld County prosecutor in 2013 for making mistakes on cases, records obtained by The Colorado Sun show.

Ellis “failed to meet the employer’s expectations” and “made mistakes on cases the employer believes she should not have made,” according to a document from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. 

Another record says Ellis, who held the title deputy district attorney at the Weld County District Attorney’s Office, was fired for “unsatisfactory performance.”

“The employer noted some cases were being processed that did not adhere to the Victim Rights Act,” the state labor department document says. “… There is the appearance in case documentation the claimant did not follow proper protocol for some of the cases she handled.”

The Victims Rights Act is a state law that ensures victims are involved in and informed of the case against their assailant. There’s also a federal version that offers similar assurances and protections. 

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The documents, obtained through an open records request, appear to contradict what Ellis told The Wall Street Journal about her termination. 

The newspaper reported that Ellis said she was fired because “she refused to bring a case to trial that she believed was an unethical prosecution.” The district attorney’s office told the Journal that Ellis handled traffic cases and other misdemeanors.

Ellis did not respond to an inquiry from The Sun on Friday about the circumstances that led to her firing and about how the documents appear to contradict what she told the Journal. Instead, the Trump campaign replied on Ellis’ behalf on Sunday, offering a 20-word, unsigned statement.

“This is a nonstory from a decade ago trying to damage her reputation simply because she works for President Trump,” the statement said.

Ellis is slated to appear before the Colorado legislature’s Legislative Audit Committee on Tuesday to testify at a Republican-called hearing on Colorado’s election integrity, according to Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs. There have been no reports of widespread voter fraud in the state. 

MORE: Colorado’s GOP chairman trusts the state’s voting systems. Legislative Republicans still want to check it out.

Ellis was hired by the Weld County District Attorney’s Office in August 2012 and fired in the first quarter of 2013, documents obtained by The Sun show. Ellis’ boss was Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, who is now chairman of the Colorado Republican Party and a U.S. representative.

A spokeswoman said Buck declined to comment.

After her termination, Ellis sought unemployment benefits. The Weld County District Attorney’s Office appealed a decision granting her those benefits to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. An agency hearing officer found that, while Ellis did make errors, they were “few when compared to the total number of cases handled by (her) overall.” 

“The number of cases in which (Ellis) committed an irreparable, egregious act was not significant compared to the total number of cases she processed,” the state labor department document says. 

MORE: Read the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment documents obtained by The Colorado Sun.

Ultimately, the state labor department affirmed that Ellis was eligible for unemployment benefits despite having been fired, which could have precluded her from being able to collect them. In Colorado, employers must show that an employee purposefully did not meet their duties in order to prevent them from obtaining benefits. 

“There are insufficient facts (Ellis) was not performing the duties to the best of her ability,” the state labor department document says. “There were some deficiencies in her education and experience that account for some of the errors she committed while learning on the job under high-volume conditions.”

The document added: “(Ellis) did the best she could with her education and training to meet the expectations of the employer.”

Jenna Ellis, senior legal adviser to the the Trump campaign, speaks at a Trump bus tour campaign event on Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

The document did not outline the “deficiencies” in Ellis’ education and experience. She graduated from the University of Richmond School of Law in Virginia in 2011 and worked in private practice before joining the Weld County District Attorney’s Office. 

Ellis’ background has come under increasing scrutiny as she has stepped into a high-profile role challenging the 2020 election results in several swing states, including Michigan and Pennsylvania. Ellis has appeared with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in news conferences and at hearings about the contest’s outcome.

Trump and his legal team have persisted in their floundering efforts to overturn the 2020 election, which President-elect Joe Biden won, despite lacking evidence of fraud or widespread wrongdoing at a level that would change the results.

Ellis entered the president’s orbit after appearing on Fox News defending Trump. She formally became a legal adviser to Trump in 2019.

President Donald J. Trump disembarks Air Force One upon arrival at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, N.C. Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

After being fired by the Weld County District Attorney’s Office, Ellis worked at several private law firms in Colorado, according to The New York Times. She also taught at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood and ran the Dobson Policy Center, which is affiliated with the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute in Colorado Springs.

Ellis remains a fellow at the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University, a nonprofit conservative policy think tank. 

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