The mysterious oppo researcher working in the White House lawyer’s office
Few people in or close to the White House have any idea what Michael Roman does all day.
Officially, Roman works as a special assistant to the president and director of special projects and research, a vague title that reveals almost nothing. He earns $115,000 a year for this work, according to White House salary records, and keeps an office inside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
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He reports to White House counsel Don McGahn, who represented the conservative Koch network as a lawyer during the period when Roman was working for the Kochs’ Freedom Partners group as head of research — a $269,000-a-year job that involved tracking the activities of Democratic political organizers and donors.
Roman, whose 25-person intelligence-gathering unit was officially disbanded by the Kochs in 2016, was hired by Donald Trump’s campaign to oversee poll-watching in the final weeks before the election and was among a handful of unannounced hires who quietly joined the White House soon after Trump’s inauguration.
He’s not involved in the kind of advance work that researchers hired by previous administrations have handled, according to interviews with half a dozen current and former White House officials and advisers.
Some said Roman is vetting special appointees by checking their social media footprints and financial backgrounds. A handful of people described Roman as McGahn’s researcher, while one described him as a “loyal soldier” to McGahn. Another characterized his work in the office as opposition research, but could not specify what precisely that entailed. One White House official said he was heavily involved in extensively researching the background of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was selected a year ago.
“Within the research world, he cultivates this ‘man of the world’ mystery,” said one former administration official. “Like, he was the guy who you would talk to if you want to find a Hungarian hacker in Hong Kong.”
Roman, McGahn and a White House spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
Early in his career, Roman did political consulting work in New Jersey and his home state of Pennsylvania, as well as stints at the Republican National Committee and on the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush, Rudy Giuliani and Sen. John McCain.
On his blog, called Election Journal, Roman describes himself as a “veteran political consultant and private investigator.”
People who have known Roman professionally dating back to his work for Bush’s campaign describe him as a seasoned operative and die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan, with a blue-collar upbringing.
“I’ve known him for 15 years. This is guy you want on your side when you’re in a tough election,” said Mike DuHaime, a partner at Mercury and former political director for the RNC. “He does not back down from a challenge. I’m sure the Trump campaign saw that when not a lot of people would support the candidate.”
In much of his political work before joining the Koch network, Roman worked on boosting voter turnout and coordinating with state Republican Party leaders, DuHaime said.
On Election Day, Roman was stationed in Pennsylvania, his beloved home state. He also oversaw the campaign’s “election integrity” efforts across the country.