We’re talking about two former Republican Congressmen from Michigan — David Trott of Birmingham, who served from 2015-2019 in the old 11th District, and Paul Mitchell (R-Dryden, in the Thumb), who served from 2017-2021 in the old 10th CD. They overlapped for just a single term, 2017-2019.
Both Trott and Mitchell had consuming ambition, worked hard to get elected, and once in office seemed to be on a path for lengthy and productive political careers, yet both decided not to seek re-election for a third term in the U.S. House and disappeared from the political landscape. Why?
We can’t ask Mitchell, who died at age 64 of renal cancer in 2021. But we can talk to Trott, who turns 63 years old on Tuesday (Oct. 16) and is still very active.
Trott graduated from the elite Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills in 1978, and obtained a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in 1981. He graduated from the Duke University School of Law in 1985, receiving his Juris Doctor. Straight out of law school, Trott showed he already had the political ‘bug’ by serving on the Bingham Farms Village Council from 1987 to 1988.
Trott went on to become the chairman and CEO of Trott & Trott PC, which represented banks and lenders in homeowner foreclosure and bankruptcy litigation. He was the owner of Attorneys Title Agency LLC and its subsidiaries. Trott was also the co-owner of Dietz Trott Sports & Entertainment, and owned Trott Recovery Services. He has served as chairman and CEO of NDeX, and been affiliated with Detroit Legal News Publishing, the U.S. Foreclosure Network, and First American Financial Corporation. Trott’s legal career and impact on the community were profiled by the Detroit Free Press on May 18, 2014. But he’s divested himself of all those business interests either when or before he became a Member of Congress, or since.
Over time, Trott has served on the boards of the University of Michigan (but no, he wasn’t a Regent), On My Own, the Detroit Country Day School, The Community House, and the Karmanos Cancer Institute. He has been a partner in 23 energy companies.
Trott chaired the Oakland County Lincoln Day Dinner back in the spring of 2013 and made a huge splash when he secured the appearance of one Donald Trump as the keynoter at this prime Republican fundraising event, more than two years before Trump announced he was running for president. The event sparked a record crowd of 2,500 and was credited by everybody involved (including Trump himself) with stoking the fire in Trump’s belly to run for the nation’s highest office. Trott was also a major donor to the Republican National Committee and the presidential campaigns of John McCain and Mitt Romney.
- Financial Services Committee
- Committee on Foreign Affairs
- Committee on the Judiciary
- United States Congressional International Conservation Caucus
- Climate Solutions Caucus
- Republican Main Street Partnership
- Problem Solvers Caucus
Trott was clearly what would be considered, in the parlance of the day, a moderate Republican, willing to compromise with Democrats on hot-button issues. He supported school choice programs, but he also supported and introduced gun control legislation, and was supportive of the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage. He was critical during his second term of President Trump’s policies on foreign affairs, trade and immigration.
In matters of national security, Trott supported President Trump‘s 2017 executive order to impose a temporary ban on entry to the U.S. of
citizens of several Muslim-majority countries, saying, “Until we can adequately vet these refugees and ensure the safety of all Americans, I support President Trump’s executive order to stay refugees from these terror-prone countries.” But Trott recently expressed regret during a speech in northern Michigan that he supported some of Trump’s policies on refugees.
On health care, Trott voted in favor of repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and to pass the American Health Care Act. But he wasn’t enthusiastic about Trump’s health care policies, either; he publicly called Trump “unhelpful on health care.”
Yes, Trott was what would now be called, by MAGA elements in the Republican Party, a RINO (Republican in Name Only). Yet it was Trott who was the true Eisenhower-style traditional conservative/moderate Republican. Teddy Roosevelt could be considered an ideological predecessor, too. Truth is, it is the MAGAs who are late arrivals to the Grand Old Party, not Trott.
Since leaving Congress, Trott has become active in an organization called Keep Our Republic (KOR). Founded in 2020, KOR was active in Pennsylvania in that year. Keep Our Republic says it is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that is dedicated to building trust, respect and confidence in the entire electoral process. It says it is a civic education group that is focused on educating the electorate on the entire electoral process from start to finish. It now has Advisory Councils for Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
Keep Our Republic claims its “hyper-localized” focus on elections in important swing states is unlike that of any other organization. In Wisconsin, it hosts various community engagement events across the state and educates community leaders on the entire electoral process. In Michigan, KOR’s focus has been on educating community leaders on the electoral process and potential threats to U.S. democracy in the 2024 election.
THE BALLENGER REPORT asked ex-Congressman Trott the following questions and got the following answers:
TBR Question 1): Mr. Trott, you were a successful lawyer and businessman before you ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014. You were then elected for two terms in the old 11th District and seemed to be on a path to a productive career in Congress. Then, suddenly, you aborted your political career and bowed out of politics after 2018. Why?
Trott Answer 1): After I won (re-election) in 2016, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told me my re-elect in 2018 would be a 20 million dollar race and as a result I should spend all of my time over the next two years raising money. He told me not to worry about my committee work of legislating. Instead, just raise money. I decided that was not how I wanted to spend two years of my life (Editor’s note: the 2018 race in the neighboring 8th CD between incumbent Republican Mike Bishop and Democratic challenger Elissa Slotkin DID turn out to be a $20 million dollar-plus race, which Slotkin won. In fact, it was the most expensive race in the country that year. That’s what Trott avoided in his own district by not seeking re-election).
TBR Question 2): You served one term (2017-2019) overlapping with another Michigan Congressman, Paul Mitchell, who represented the old 10th Congressional district. He, too, served only two terms before bowing out voluntarily in 2020. Did the two of you share information and/or beliefs that led each of you to give up your nascent careers so quickly? Were his reasons similar to yours?
Trott Answer 2): Paul was a good friend, and I think he also was frustrated by the dysfunction and focus on staying in power, as opposed to actually solving problems (Editor’s note: Two years after Trott bowed out of Congress, Mitchell also threw in the towel, citing almost exactly the same reasons Trottt does here).
TBR Question 3): What have you been doing since? What is “Keep Our Republic”?
Trott Answer 3): I still own several significant businesses and have been working with our Family Foundation on charitable projects. Keep Our Republic is an organization focused on trying to ensure our democracy is not threatened by people or events who are trying to undermine the integrity of our elections.
TBR Question 4): Do you feel you can be just as effective, or more effective, in the private sector pursuing your political beliefs and goals than you could have by continuing your career in Congress?
Trott Answer 4): No. The opportunity to affect change and policy while serving in Congress is profound.
TBR Question 5): : Are you surprised at the toppling of U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy two weeks ago? Or did you see something like that coming? Previous Speakers like John Boehner and Paul Ryan had problems similar to the ones McCarthy had to deal with. What were those problems? Can any Republican lead his caucus and the House effectively? Already, Steve Scalise (R-LA), nominated by the House Republican Conference to be McCarthy’s successor, has thrown in the towel.
Trott Answer 5): It was inevitable. Kevin sealed his fate when he allowed a motion to vacate (the Speakership) to be brought by one Member. Unless they change the House rules no one will be able to effectively lead the House.
TBR Question 6): Is the Congress as dysfunctional as it appears to be? If so, what’s wrong with it? How can it be fixed?
Trott Answer 6): The moderates in both parties need to work together to solve the problems facing our country. If this happens, Congress will begin to regain the confidence of the American people and in the process the extremes in each party will be marginalized, which would be a good thing. The other dynamic that needs to change is independents and moderates need to start voting in the primaries. When we get extreme candidates in the general elections it is because the moderates did not vote!
TBR Question 7): At one time, before you were elected to Congress, you seemed to be a supporter of Donald Trump, before he ran for president in 2016. You served one term in the U.S. House when Trump was president (in 2017-2018). Did you become disenchanted with what you saw? Has your opinion of Trump changed?
Trott Answer 7): Donald Trump is intellectually, morally, emotionally and psychologically unfit to be President. I thought, with his business experience, he might be a good President. I was wrong.
TBR Question 8): Who are you supporting for President in 2024, if anyone? Is the group called “No Labels” the answer?
Trott Answer 8): Not sure who I am going to support in 2024. I think President Biden is not up to the job, and Trump is unfit. I will support the No Labels candidate if they have a chance to win and are not just a spoiler.
TBR Question 9): How do you feel about the potential federal government shutdown, which could still happen next month? How can it be averted? Do people like Matt Gaetz have a point in what they’re pursuing, like reining in the national debt?
Trott Answer 9): The national debt is a problem insofar as the interest payment on the debt compromises our ability to support other important discretionary spending programs. That being said, how is a fringe player like Matt Gaetz, through his antics, going to affect change? Do you think a majority of the House and Senate is going to wake up and say “Great idea, Matt, let’s go with your solution!” No way. The only way we solve our nation’s spending problem is through a bi-partisan solution where both sides make compromises on taxes, spending and a balanced budget amendment.