How Charles Harder Went From Local Democratic Politics to Defending the Trump Family

Charles Harder fell in love with the University of California, Santa Cruz, the first time he visited in the fall of 1986. He remembers the wispy clouds, bright blue sky and wet-glistening dew of the forest around him. The scene reminded him of the trips that his best friend’s mom would take him and his buddy on to National Parks like Yosemite.

“I was over the moon; I just loved it,” Harder, 48, recalls. “It was like we were simpatico.”

The following year, Harder moved from the San Fernando Valley to Santa Cruz, where he began his freshman year at UCSC as a biology major, but soon switched to politics. He embedded himself in the local Democratic scene, leading the UCSC College Democrats. “No one else wanted to do it,” he says.

In addition to working for several local left-leaning politicians, Harder remembers winning awards from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and future Obama-appointee Leon Panetta, among others.

Those who knew Harder, a 1991 graduate of the university’s Merrill College, and have followed his post-college career have been surprised to see where it has led him. Now an attorney, he’s defending Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States, as his personal attorney.

“If you told any of us back in 1990 that he’d be working for Trump, we’d say you’re fucking crazy, because he was a liberal guy,” says a former staffer at the Santa Cruz Independent, a campus newspaper where Harder once worked, who asked to remain anonymous.

Harder has been working for Trump on a few cases, including the lawsuit brought by porn star Stormy Daniels over a dispute about hush money stemming from an alleged affair she had with the president. Harder’s also defending him against former aide and fellow reality television star Omarosa Manigault. Trump may be one of the most polarizing presidents in American history, but Harder says representing him has nothing to do with politics.

“The things where I’ve represented the president, they really have nothing to do with public policy,” Harder says, his shoes kicked off in his Beverly Hills office, revealing socks with a pattern of dancing hula girls. “I’m not representing him on immigration or the environment or the economy or foreign policy. I have nothing to do with any of that. So people should not look to me as if I have any role to play on that, because I don’t.”

He says he has no “litmus test” for potential clients. Rather, he takes on cases he likes and that he thinks have merit. About two-thirds of potential cases don’t make the cut.

Harder is also representing the Trump campaign and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. He represented Melania Trump in a defamation suit against the Daily Mail that settled for $2.9 million. Last year, he wrote the New York Times a letter on behalf of Harvey Weinstein, threatening to sue if the paper ran its months-long investigative report into sexual assault allegations against the movie mogul. Harder resigned from Weinstein’s legal team days after the story, which would win a Pulitzer Prize, was published.

Harder’s big break was representing Hulk Hogan against Gawker Media in a case reportedly funded to the tune of $10 million by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who had a vendetta against the website, at least in part, because it outed him as gay. (Thiel, coincidentally, later served as an adviser to Trump, most notably on his transition team to the presidency.) The lawsuit culminated in a $140 million judgment and raised concerns among free press advocates that other billionaires might use the courts to take down news outlets they don’t like.

Conn Hallinan, a longtime journalist who served as UCSC’s print media adviser and remembers the Independent, paints Harder’s media work as a “dangerous” piece in a changing landscape of threats to news organizations.

“If someone sues you, you may be able to win the case, but the average decision for one of those suits is $45,000,” Hallinan says. “If small publications get charged with defamation, it may put them out of business. Anything that encourages these cases is very dangerous to the press.”

But Harder argues that Gawker’s blatant refusal to take down the video amounted to a “horrific privacy violation”—and that, were it not for outside help, Hogan would have never been able to afford the legal fees.

Politically, Harder says he strongly supports the environment and civil rights, but also believes that government spending and taxes are out of control. He has a vision that government should work more like a smartphone app, like Uber. Disillusioned by the news media, he sees CNN and the New York Times as being as far to the left as Fox News is to the right. His views, he says, have evolved slowly over time.

Say what you will about Harder—you might find his politics confusing or perhaps believe that he’s protecting a president who shows dangerously authoritarian tendencies. In conversation, though, even a total novice could plainly see that Harder is a no-nonsense lawyer. I knew, even in the midst of my discussion with him, that this was a bizarre revelation to come to. Considering that he is an attorney involved in one of the news cycle’s highest-profile lawsuits, it should go without saying.

But I only had to follow the antics of prosecuting attorney Michael Avenatti, who seems to be using the legal system to run for the Democratic nomination for president—and whose skill for trolling the American public nearly matches that of the sitting president himself—to know that Daniels, sympathetic as many Americans might find her, might not have an easy day in court.

“Lawyers run the gamut,” Harder says. “You could have a lawyer that barely passed the bar and is unethical. You could have lawyers that are super geniuses, but they’re evil geniuses. You could have lawyers who are super by-the-book. The approach that I take is that I have fun, but I’m very serious.”

This is an abridged version of an article that originally appeared in our sister publication, the Santa Cruz Good Times


  1. > and raised concerns among free press advocates that other billionaires might use the courts to take down news outlets they don’t like.

    Whoever these “free press advocates” are, they better start waking up to the nasty, vicious attack on the free press by the HOLY Robert Mueller and his zany and lawless “Russia collusion investigation”.

    Mueller has looked the other way when his pal, James Comey, openly and publicly had a surrogate leak information to a New York Times reporter. The “reporter” was treated with utmost deference and not questioned.

    Yet, the same HOLY AND SAINTED Robert Mueller is reportedly about to indict AUTHOR and JOURNALIST Jerome Corsi after springing a “perjury trap” on him.

    Corsi reportedly turned over to Mueller’s investigators ALL of his computers and notes, presumably disclosing the identities of his sources.

    Reporter shield laws anyone? HA HA HA

    Corsi is not a lightweight. He has PhD in political science from Harvard. He has published well-researched books on subjects that have been seriously compromising to progressive political figures like John Kerry (“Swift Boat”) and Barack Obama (“Birthergate”).

    He explains that he studies topics deeply and comprehensively and is able to “connect the dots” that others miss. The Mueller investigation apparently believes that gaining insights though analysis amounts to having secret undisclosed sources. And not disclosing those sources amounts to “lying to the FBI”.

    It’s not surprising to me that the stink of ideological bias and corruption in our politics has become so strong that it has overwhelmed someone like Charles Harder and caused him to recognize that the progressive good guys have morphed into the evil guys that progressives have professed to hate.

    Harder may not have ever spent two seconds contemplating the plight of Jerome Corsi. But it seems that Harder may be on the slippery slope of admitting that bullying “un-progressive” journalists like Corsi logically leads to the justification of bullying of New York Times reporters who receive leaks from James Comey and Washington Post reports who receive leaks from John Brennan.

    If “free press advocates” really want a free press, they have to advocate for a free press — EVERYWHERE a free press is being abused.

    • Oh Outside
      You are not just a lunatic, you are also seriously uhinged.

      Does San Jose Inside have a policy to limit who posts online?

      Outside continues to be a dangerous part of San Jose online community.

      • Does San Jose Inside have a policy to limit who posts online?


        Yes. San Jose Inside does not permit postings by:

        1. Trump supporters.
        2. White Christian males.
        3. White married suburban women.
        4. Black conservatives.
        5. Climate deniers.
        6. Asians who have been denied admission to Harvard.
        7. Texas Hispanics named Cruz.
        8. Gays who have been shadowbanned by Twitter.
        7. Jews and women who are not approved by U.C. Berkeley to speak at privately sponsored events on the U.C. campus.
        8. Gun owners
        9. All non-diverse people.

        Postings by everyone else are welcome.

      • >Outside continues to be a dangerous part of San Jose online community.

        I’m really surprised by this new group think that a persons online opinions can be considered dangerous.

        The only danger I see is to feelings, but I guess that’s valid in this day and age.

        • Robert
          Has your head been buried in a deep dark hole?
          When violence, especially that committed by white males, IS being propped up and emboldened by online opinions, social media and the toxicity of the internet.
          Your willful complicity, while expected, is disgusting.

          • Sal, who do you think should be the arbiter who decides which opinions should be permitted and which should be suppressed?

          • Sal> Your willful complicity, while expected, is disgusting.

            See I don’t get guys like you. You get mad because you want pity and people to feel sorry for you. You want to outrage at every little non-transgression while applying labels to people to show a contrast, instead of thinking, “Hey, we’re all people”

            Sal > When violence, especially that committed by white males, IS being propped up and emboldened by online opinions, social media and the toxicity of the internet.

            Are you implying that SJOTB is secretly plotting to commit some heinous act on the city of San Jose? I don’t get that feeling from him. He’s typing out comments on the internet. It’s not that important to me, because after I’m done typing, I’ll probably check on my 3d print, or go have dinner with the wife and kids. Point being, there are way better things to worry about than SJOTB.

            Sal > Has your head been buried in a deep dark hole?

            I don’t know about hole, but if you’re talking about the overall narrative that’s being driven by parties and news networks, no, I haven’t been burying my head in those either. More or less thinking about the family, work, my hobbies. I think I’ve joined that small segment of people that outside of telling people to “Calm themselves” I’ve really been into my own neat things and inventions.

            For instance, this smoke, these fires… We need rain. It’s very expensive from an energy point of view to convert seawater to clouds, usually people think HEAT but I have something I want to try out. Ultrasonic foggers. If we ran these along the bridges of the bay 24×7 I think we could create some full time cloud generation.


          • > Your willful complicity, while expected, is disgusting.


            I’m really just a tiny little inconsequential pissant. I don’t think there is a single politician in San Jose, Santa Clara County, or the entire cosmos who knows who I am or gives a squat about anything I think about anything.

            Your report that there are people who are engaging in actual, wilful complicity and who are propped up and emboldened by my online opinions is . . . well . . . hugely inflating to my self-esteem. I feel empowered!

            I may have to consider doing a Clinton type speaking tour:


  2. What a rant! I knew I would be reading more inane drivel from the same old delusional local trumpet, but this one takes the cake. Maybe he’s becoming unhinged, just like the criminal orange buffoon in the White House.
    Turn off Alex Jones, dumbass.

  3. Good or Bad a parasite is a parasite .
    I’m reminded of the old punch line,
    ” Happiness is a ten thousand politicians walking off a pier with a dead lawyer under each arm”!

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