Kerri Kupec, Attorney General Bill Barr’s ‘right hand,’ on her path to the Justice Department
Kerri Kupec : “The Operators” is a documentary series that examines the behind-the-scenes work of powerful political aides on Capitol Hill, in the White House, and on carefully watched election campaigns.
Attorney General William Barr refers to her as his “right hand,” and her colleagues in the Justice Department regard her as a “integral” and “talented” leader.
Since December 2018, Kerri Kupec has served as the head of the Department of Justice’s Public Affairs and as a counsellor to the attorney general, making her the first person to hold both posts at the same time.
Her father instilled in her a passion for politics. Kupec grew raised on Long Island, New York, and recalls her father discussing the day’s events with her over supper every night.
“We’d talk about it as if I were an adult,” she explained. “Politics became a ‘thing for us.'”
Kupec’s father, however, was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) at the start of her final semester of law school.
He lost his struggle a few years later, right before Kupec relocated to Washington, D.C. to begin her political career.
“He never saw any of it,” Kupec said of her professional life. “However, I was only able to achieve it because of what he had taught, instilled, and inspired in me throughout my life.”
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Kupec views her father’s life and relationship with her to be “one of my life’s greatest treasures,” according to Kupec.
“He was the most amazing guy I’ve ever met,” she remarked. “He was a father’s father — a mentor and father figure to many — intelligent and insightful, deeply unselfish, kind, and determined to doing the right thing no matter what the cost,” says the obituary.
Kupec, who spent her high school years playing volleyball, basketball, and softball, said her father and mother were her “greatest cheerleaders.”
“They would find a way to assist me if I was interested in pursuing something,” Kupec added.
“I recall going through a difficult period in my life and questioning my relationship with God and what it all meant,” Kupec explained.
“My father admitted that he didn’t have all the answers, but simply stated, ‘You’ll either go through life with God or you won’t.'”
She added, “It was one of those rare situations where it was actually that straightforward.”
Kupec added, “He was also my confidante.” “He would always tell you the truth, but with love, compassion, and a keen sense of what you needed to know.”
Daughter and father have a lot in common.
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In an interview with Fox News, Attorney General Barr described Kupec in a similar light.
“I was down in a conference room in the Department, and I was the nominee preparing for my confirmation hearings,” Barr told Fox News, adding that Kupec was brought into the room to present her for a communications post.
Barr told Fox News, “There was a debate of various communications strategy things, and I was very strong in pushing a specific stance, and she pushed back, but in a very friendly way.”
“A lot of individuals, especially when meeting someone who could be their employer for the first time, may be a little nervous, but she challenged my ideas in a really kind and courteous manner.
” I sat there contemplating it and realised she was correct.”
“I thought, that’s the type of guy I need around me,” Barr remarked of their first encounter.
“Someone who is prepared to stand up and persuade you in a collegial manner — that’s why I wanted her on the team in the first place, and she hasn’t let me down.”
“I couldn’t have done my job as Attorney General without Kerri,” Barr said, adding that she was “the best public affairs person” he’d ever dealt with.
Not only does Kupec have a “tremendous strategic understanding,” but she also “knows how to get the message out,” according to Barr.
“She is an excellent lawyer,” Barr explained, “so she understands the essence of the business here.”
“I don’t think I could have functioned without her outstanding performance and unwavering support.”
“Without her, I’d be lost,” he admitted.
Barr said Kupec always carried herself with “a lot of poise” despite the everyday obstacles at the Justice Department, and her coworkers concur.
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“Kerri is a complete professional who has handled one of the most difficult, pressure-filled positions in Washington with remarkable elegance under strain,” Wyn Hornbuckle, a senior career Justice Department public affairs employee, told Fox News.
Another senior career official at the Justice Department told Fox News that Kupec, a political appointee, had been “a decent, fair, and encouraging boss” to both career and political workers.
Kupec “doesn’t care who receives the credit as long as the department is well-served,” according to the source.
“She has tremendous credibility internally because she is such a good lawyer and because she is so focused on accuracy,”
Barr’s former chief of staff Will Levi told Fox News, adding that she “brought so many skills and tools to the table” and that “anyone would want her involved in every important decision.”
“And she was,” Levi explained.
Kupec worked as a communications director and legal counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative non-profit litigation firm and Supreme Court “powerhouse,” for several years before entering the Justice Department.
“Learning how to communicate on delicate legal and political topics that were at the heart of national discussion and of high sensitivity to individuals on all sides of the issues was where I cut my teeth at ADF,” Kupec told Fox News.
“In the court of public opinion, my philosophy has always been to be obviously persuasive, truthful, and captivating, but more importantly, to discover methods to offer people with the knowledge they need to develop their own conclusions.”
“You have to give them that chance,” she continued.
Kupec started as a spokeswoman for the Justice Department in 2018, then transferred to the White House to be a spokesperson for now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work on the confirmation process,” Kupec added.
“Becoming acquainted with Brett Kavanaugh and discovering what a decent, kind, smart man and lawyer he was and is.”
The confirmation process for Kavanaugh was a “disgrace,” according to Kupec, but “happily — and properly — had a good ending.”
“It was often weird to be at the centre of it all on the communications side,” Kupec added.
“The White House celebration of Justice Thomas’ confirmation was such a joyous occasion – Justice Thomas was the life of the party.”
She said, “It was a night I’ll never forget.”
Kupec said she was “honoured” but “very sober-minded” when she was appointed to lead the Department of Justice’s Office of Public Affairs.
“I sensed the Department was going to enter a particularly turbulent period in our country,” Kupec added.
“I also wanted to assist if I could.”
Kupec was appointed in December 2018, right in the middle of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether members of Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia to sway the 2016 election.
Since taking over the Office of Public Affairs, President Trump has seen one special counsel investigation — Mueller’s — come to a close and another begin, with Barr appointing John Durham, a U.S. attorney from Connecticut, to look into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation.
Barr stated earlier this month that Durham had been named special counsel in an effort to ensure that the probe could continue into the next administration.
Kupec’s time at the DOJ coincided with impeachment proceedings against President Trump, public upheaval in cities around the country, the coronavirus outbreak, and other events.
Democrats have chastised Barr for “politicising” the Justice Department during her tenure there.
“I study the sources and roll my eyes,” Kupec stated.
“I saw the Attorney General make difficult decisions, day after day, often at tremendous personal risk, to de-politicize and de-weaponize the Department of Justice,” Kupec added.
“Restoring a one-tier justice system is messy and difficult, and his unwavering determination to doing so was an inspiration and a model of courage I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Regarding her friendship with Barr, she told Fox News that the two had “an instant connection.”
“We’re both from New York,” Kupec explained. “Collaborating with Attorney General Barr has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional life.”
Barr is a “unique combination of a great mind, common sense, and street savvy,” according to Kupec.
He’s a down-to-earth guy who’s a lot of fun and quite humorous.”
“Strategizing and brainstorming on how to deal with the continual bombardment of challenges and crises was my favourite aspect of working with him,” she said.
Meanwhile, Kupec is regarded as a mentor by young women in the Justice Department.
One coworker and mentee told Fox News, “She’s always motivating us to think outside the box, go after our greatest objectives and largest desires.”
“And because she leads by example, she gives us the confidence to do so.”
We’ve seen her set her sights on something she wants to accomplish — and then simply make it happen, no matter what.”
Kupec, according to another source, “empowers us to attain our goals that we would have thought impossible otherwise.”
“It’s rare to have mentors like Kerri as a young woman working in Washington,” another mentee and colleague told Fox News.
“She’s more than a ‘boss,’ she’s a mentor and a true friend.”
Kupec emphasised the necessity of finding a “good employer who has a reputation for being competent at what they do and good to their workers” for other young women who wish to work in politics and administration.
“The job you’ll have working for them is almost unimportant because of the leadership experience you’ll receive, as well as having a mentor and champion for the rest of your life,” she explained.
Another piece of advise she gave was to “actively endeavour to make stars of others in your personal and professional life.”
“Washington, D.C., is a thrilling city. It can also be full with temptation and shortcuts “Kupec explained.
“Maintain your reputation with the same zeal as you do everything else. Be straight-shooting and honest.
People who do not operate in this manner may appear to be ‘getting ahead faster,’ but they always burn out.”
She continued, ” “Doing things the right way takes longer, but you can’t put a premium on a good reputation.
It determines so much of your success and long-term viability.”
“Persevere, persevere, and persevere,” she concluded.
“My journey to DC took many years due to many unforeseen twists and turns.
During that time, there were much more lows than highs, some tragic “she clarified “I questioned my calling, and I questioned God throughout this time.”
“But now that I’m where I am, I’m glad I didn’t give up. But most importantly, I am grateful to God for not allowing me to give up – and for not giving up on me “Kupec explained.
“It was Winston Churchill who stated it best: ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal; what counts is the resolve to keep going.'”
Kupec’s last day at the Justice Department is Wednesday. She adds she plans to “take a break” in the future.
“I haven’t had a break in over a decade, and I’m excited to take some time off and think about the next steps,” she said.
“As weird as it may sound, I’ve become a little hooked to crises, so I expect it’ll be a bit of a shock to come down from that.”
“However, I’m looking forward to the journey ahead and whatever it contains,” she concluded.
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