Albert Sanders Jr. is associate counsel to the president of the United States at the White House. A 1997 graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School, Sanders provides legal and strategic advice to the president, his senior advisors, and various agency leaders on a range of matters including congressional investigations and oversight, executive privilege assertions, responses to cyber attacks, leaks of classified information and statutory compliance.
Sanders for the past year has managed the White House’s high stakes litigation portfolio, where he supervises trial lawyers in federal court matters involving the Executive Office of the President, and the Treasury Department. He is regularly called upon to represent the president’s senior advisors in civil litigation depositions and transcribed interviews before Congress. As well, Sanders conducts internal White House investigations and oversees “e-discovery” related to sensitive personnel matters, visitor logs, media communication, and Freedom of Information Act requests.
Sanders said he was attracted to the legal profession in his youth; most of the professionals he saw had a law degree.
“That’s true. As I got into my teens I noticed that people at the height of their various professions had a law degree,” he said. “The practice of law primarily identifies issues. In my case, we practice in a politically charged environment and even though there is always some criticism and scrutiny by the public, our decisions serve a broad political purpose. Each day we advocate the best interests of the American people.”
Prior to joining the White House Counsel’s Office, Sanders served as Counselor to the General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In the position, Sanders supervised the legal team that managed congressional investigations and oversight of the agency. He served as coordinator of the department-wide effort to implement the Priority Enforcement Program, said to be a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration. The new program is said to replace the “Secure Communities” program under which agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement identified “criminal” undocumented residents booked in jails. During his tenure at DHS, Sanders also managed the Office of Congressional Relations in serving as Acting Assistant Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs (ICE) Enforcement.
Sanders explained that the daily atmosphere in the White House is fast-paced, hectic and challenging. But when he walks up West Executive Avenue to his office, “I’m in awe,” he said. “Sometimes I have to ‘pinch’ myself, when I see where I work. The days are long and arduous, but it’s never a chore. It’s a privilege to work for the American people.”
Sanders is a former counsel on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, a position he held just prior to joining the DHS. There, he advised then-Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on a variety of matters including cyber security, privacy, civil rights and food safety. Sanders’ major legislative accomplishments during this period included drafting, negotiating and implementing the strategy that led to the passage of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011, considered to be one of the most significant reforms of the FDA in the past 70 years. The FSMA grants the FDA a number of new powers, among them: mandatory recall authority which the agency has sought for many years. Now, food processing facilities are required to register with the FDA biennially. Food importers are required to implement foreign supplier verification programs and to take the necessary steps to verify that the food they import is safe. Also, food facilities will undergo regular inspection—or with “greater frequency”—not less than once every five years.
During the bailout of the automobile industry in 2009, Sanders was instrumental in helping to facilitate the stakeholder bargaining sessions that led to legislation establishing the right to binding arbitration for the nation’s terminated auto dealerships which sought reinstatement within their respective companies (i.e. General Motors, Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Motors).
Sanders began his legal career as an associate at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and Feld in Washington, D.C., where he successfully represented a number of Fortune 500 companies in complex, multi-million dollar class action lawsuits as well as advising his clients on various labor, employment and executive compensation matters.
Sanders said he took with him to the nation’s capitol many lessons and practical advice from family, teachers and mentors from his youth in South Los Angeles. The most important of these, he explained, was confidence and application.
“If there’s a dream, nothing can stand in your way,” he said. “If you apply yourself and believe, you can achieve. That’s something our parents instilled in us at an early age.”
A frequent panelist and speaker both nationally and abroad, Sanders has given keynote addresses before a range of professional, philanthropic and academic organizations across the country. To date, he has represented the United States on five official delegations with business and political leaders, students and human rights activists in China, Taiwan, Qatar, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.
While much of his work is confidential within the realm of attorney-client privilege, Sanders did offer a unique anecdote regarding former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The two would sometimes have a moment or two to discuss their favorite sport…basketball.
“I told him one day of my admiration for his work,” he said, “and we got around to talking hoops. He had a very unique e-mail alias at the time: If you wanted to reach Attorney General Holder directly, it was ‘LouAlcindor.’
Sanders, recently fluent in Spanish, received his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga. After completing his certificate of study and business management at the Wharton School of Business, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School where he was president of his J.D. class.
Originally from Compton, Sanders played basketball and baseball in high school, was active on the student counsel, participated in numerous community endeavors in South Los Angeles, and was a member of the choir at Greater Bethany Community Church.
Sanders is licenced to practice law in California and in Washington, D.C.