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Thomas E. Donilon


Tom Donilon is a partner in O’Melveny’s Washington, DC Office. He is Vice Chair of the firm and serves as a member of the firm’s Policy Committee. Drawing on his distinguished career in government and the private sector, Tom counsels senior business executives, entrepreneurs, and company boards as they develop strategies to address their highest level business, legal, and policy issues in the United States and abroad. A leading national security expert with an extensive global network, Tom has deep experience in global strategy, cybersecurity, financial services, and corporate governance.

He returned to the firm in 2014 after serving in the administration of President Barack Obama for over four years, most recently as National Security Advisor. In that capacity Mr. Donilon oversaw the U.S. National Security Council staff, chaired the cabinet level National Security Principals Committee, and was responsible for the coordination and integration of the administration's foreign policy, intelligence, and military efforts. Mr. Donilon served as the President’s personal emissary to a number of world leaders, including President Hu Jintao and President Xi Jinping, President Vladimir Putin, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. President Obama has said that “Tom Donilon has been one of the most effective national security advisors our country has ever had.”

Tom previously served as Assistant to the President and Principal Deputy National Security Advisor. He also chaired the Obama-Biden transition at the U.S. Department of State and headed President Obama’s general election debate preparation effort during the 2008 campaign.

Tom has worked closely with and advised three U.S. presidents since his first position at the White House in 1977, working with President Carter. He was Assistant Secretary of State and Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of State during the Clinton administration. In this capacity, he was responsible for the development and implementation of the department’s major policy initiatives, including NATO expansion, the Dayton Peace Accords, and the Middle East peace process.

He has received the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award, the National Intelligence Distinguished Public Service Medal, the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joint Distinguished Civilian Service Award, and the CIA’s Director’s Award.

Tom also previously served as Executive Vice President for Law and Policy at Fannie Mae where he was responsible for Fannie Mae’s legal, regulatory, government affairs, and public policy issues.

His return to the firm in 2014 began the fourth installment of his practice at O’Melveny. He started his legal career as an associate at the firm in 1985 and, before joining the Obama Administration in 2009, practiced as a partner representing clients on a range of sensitive governance, legal, regulatory, and policy matters. He also served as the national partner charged with overseeing the firm’s public interest and pro bono initiatives and led the firm’s successful effort to revitalize its pro bono commitment.

Tom is a member of the CIA External Advisory Board and the Defense Policy Board. He is also a distinguished fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a non-resident senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a member of the Aspen Strategy Group and the Trilateral Commission, and an Honorary Trustee at the Brookings Institution.

Tom lives in Washington, DC, with his wife Cathy Russell, and his children Sarah (17) and Teddy (15). Ms. Russell is Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State.

Professional Activities

Admitted, District of Columbia
Member, Council on Foreign Relations; Aspen Strategy Group; Defense Policy Board; Trilateral Commission; Honorary Trustee, the Brookings Institution
Public Appearances



Other Remarks

University of Virginia, J.D., 1985: Editorial Board, Virginia Law Review

Catholic University of America, B.A., 1977: summa cum laude; Phi Beta Kappa; Catholic University President's Award as Outstanding Graduate

District of Columbia