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Steven G. Bradbury
Steven G. Bradbury official photo.jpg
Official portrait, 2017
Acting United States Secretary of Transportation
In office
January 12, 2021 – January 20, 2021
President Donald Trump
Preceded by Elaine Chao
Succeeded by Lana Hurdle (acting)
Performing the Functions and Duties of United States Deputy Secretary of Transportation
In office
September 10, 2019 – January 20, 2021
President Donald Trump
Preceded by Jeffrey A. Rosen
Succeeded by Polly Trottenberg
General Counsel of the United States Department of Transportation
In office
November 28, 2017 – January 20, 2021
President Donald Trump
Preceded by Kathryn Thomson
Succeeded by John Putnam (acting)
Acting United States Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel
In office
February 1, 2005 – January 20, 2009
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Daniel Levin (acting)
Succeeded by David J. Barron (acting)
Personal details
Steven Dean Bradbury

(1958-09-12) September 12, 1958 (age 65)
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
Political party Republican
Hilde Kahn
(m. 1988)
Education Stanford University (BA)
University of Michigan (JD)
Awards Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service

Steven Gill Bradbury (born September 12, 1958) is an American lawyer and government official who served as the General Counsel of the United States Department of Transportation. He previously served as Acting Assistant Attorney General (AAG) from 2005 to 2007 and Principal Deputy AAG from 2004 to 2009, heading the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in the U.S. Department of Justice during President George W. Bush's second term.

During his tenure in OLC, he authored a number of significant classified opinions providing legal authorization for waterboarding and other so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques", a euphemism for torture. Bradbury was nominated to be the Assistant Attorney General for OLC but individual Democratic Senators put holds on his nomination, preventing the full Senate from voting on it, and Democratic leaders in the Senate instituted pro forma sessions of the Senate during scheduled recesses to prevent the President from giving him a recess appointment. Bradbury continued to serve as the acting chief of OLC until the end of the Bush Administration on January 20, 2009.

Prior to becoming General Counsel of the Department of Transportation, Bradbury was a partner at the Washington D.C. office of Dechert LLP. In June 2017, he was nominated by President Donald Trump to become General Counsel of the United States Department of Transportation. On November 14, 2017, Bradbury was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 50–47 for the position. On September 10, 2019, he was further authorized to perform the functions and duties of the Office of the Deputy Secretary of Transportation as the Acting Deputy Secretary. On December 21, 2020, his official title was changed to remove the "acting" designation, but with him continuing to perform the duties of the position.

On January 7, 2021, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao submitted her resignation to President Donald Trump due to the 2021 United States Capitol attack. As the official performing the functions and duties of the Office of the Deputy Secretary of Transportation, Bradbury became the acting Secretary of Transportation as of January 12, 2021. He remained in office until the change of administration on January 20, 2021.

Early life and education

Bradbury was born September 12, 1958, in Portland, Oregon, the youngest of four children. His father, Edward T. Bradbury, died when he was 11 months old, and his mother supported the family by working nights and taking in laundry to supplement their Social Security income. He grew up in the Sunnyside neighborhood, where he attended Washington High School. He was student body president his senior year. Bradbury was the first in his family to graduate from college, earning a B.A. from Stanford University in 1980 with a major in English.

After working in publishing and as a legal assistant in New York in the early 1980s, Bradbury attended the University of Michigan Law School, where he received his J.D., magna cum laude, in 1988. He was an editor for the Michigan Law Review and a member of the Order of the Coif. In October 1988, following graduation, he married Hilde Kahn, his law school classmate.


From 1988 to 1990, Bradbury worked as an associate at Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C. In 1990–1991, he served as a law clerk to Judge James L. Buckley on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. After working as an Attorney-Adviser in the Office of Legal Counsel from 1991 to 1992, he served as a law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1992 to 1993.

Following his clerkship for Justice Thomas, Bradbury practiced law with Kirkland & Ellis in Washington, D.C., first as an associate from 1993 to 1994 and then as a partner from 1994 to 2004. In 1998, Bradbury was named one of the top 40 lawyers under 40 by Washingtonian. In his law practice at Kirkland & Ellis, he focused on antitrust (mergers and litigation), securities law (including class action litigation and regulatory investigations), and various other regulatory, constitutional, and commercial litigation matters, both at the trial and appellate levels.

Office of Legal Counsel

In April 2004, Bradbury left private practice after being appointed as the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the OLC under Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith, becoming Acting Assistant Attorney General in February 2005. He was nominated by President George W. Bush to be the Assistant Attorney General for OLC on June 23, 2005. The delay between his appointment and nomination was seen by some within the Justice Department as a "trial period", in which he would be susceptible to pressure. In May 2005, during this "trial period", Bradbury issued a set of opinions authorizing the use of waterboarding and other brutal interrogation techniques that are frequently described as torture; his nomination to lead the OLC occurred one month later.

His nomination was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in November 2005 but was never voted on by the full Senate, due to Senate holds placed by four Democratic Senators. Their resistance was due in part to his memoranda concerning the use of torture during interrogations in the War on Terror and due to questions about his role in NSA warrantless surveillance programs. Bradbury's nomination was returned to the President under Rule XXXI, Paragraph 6 of the United States Senate at the end of 2005. President Bush unsuccessfully nominated him twice more in 2006, once in 2007, and for the fifth time in 2008. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid offered to confirm 84 other stalled nominees in exchange for the White House withdrawing Bradbury's nomination, but this offer was declined by the Bush administration.

In August 2004, Bradbury issued a memorandum concluding that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution secures an individual right to keep and bear arms. This opinion was cited throughout an amicus curiae brief by the Department of Justice in District of Columbia v. Heller.

In 2007, Bradbury approved an OLC opinion to the Social Security Administration that endorsed granting social security benefits to the non-biological child of a same-sex union.

Bradbury received a number of awards and honors while at OLC, including the Edmund J. Randolph Award for outstanding service to the Department of Justice, the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service, the National Security Agency's Intelligence Under Law Award, the Director of National Intelligence's Intelligence Community Legal Award, and the Criminal Division's Award for Outstanding Law Enforcement Partnerships.

Return to private practice

Following his term in OLC, Bradbury returned to private practice as a partner at Dechert LLP in Washington, D.C., where he specialized in antitrust, administrative litigation and enforcement actions, general commercial litigation, and appellate matters.

In February 2012, Bradbury testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on H.R. 3702, the "Due Process Guarantee Act of 2011".

During the 2012 presidential election, Bradbury served as an advisor to Mitt Romney's campaign on matters of national security law.

In the wake of the 2013 global surveillance disclosures, Bradbury testified before Congress and authored several editorials in defense of the National Security Agency's surveillance programs, including the collection of telephone metadata.

While working for Dechert, Bradbury represented Takata Corporation, which was at the time involved in negotiations with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) over a recall of its faulty airbags.

U.S. Department of Transportation

In June 2017, he was nominated by President Donald Trump to become General Counsel of the United States Department of Transportation. Bradbury's nomination was opposed by a coalition of human rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Center for Victims of Torture, and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Following a preliminary hearing by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, Senator Tammy Duckworth announced that she had placed a hold on Bradbury's nomination. The Senate operates by unanimous consent, granting any single Senator the ability to prevent action. Overruling Duckworth's hold, Republican Senators on the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee voted to advance Bradbury's nomination, which was still subject to confirmation by a full Senate vote. On November 14, 2017, Bradbury was confirmed for the position in a 50–47 vote, largely along party lines. Two Republican Senators, John McCain and Rand Paul, voted against Bradbury's confirmation, both citing his involvement in the torture program as the reason for their votes. Bradbury was sworn into office on November 28, 2017.

After former Deputy Secretary of Transportation Jeffrey A. Rosen was nominated to serve as Deputy Attorney General, Bradbury was selected by President Trump to concurrently perform the functions and duties of the Deputy Secretary of Transportation. After Secretary Elaine Chao resigned on January 11, 2021, due to the riots at the United States Capitol , Bradbury took the position of Acting Secretary of Transportation. Lana Hurdle succeeded Bradbury as Acting Secretary of Transportation on January 20, 2021.

Heritage Foundation

In December 2022, The Heritage Foundation announced that Bradbury would be joining as a distinguished fellow who will be working on their "2025 Presidential Transition Project".

See also

  • List of law clerks of the Supreme Court of the United States (Seat 10)
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