Majority Minority

Majority Minority: Leon Fresco, tour guide to the DC swamp

Leon Fresco is one of those Washington, D.C. movers and shakers you don’t know.
Leon Fresco is one of those Washington, D.C. movers and shakers you don’t know. MCT

Americans don’t hear much about operatives like Leon Fresco, but he is a key cog in the Washington machine.

Fresco is what beltway insiders call a fixer, a lawyer who uses his connections and deep knowledge of federal law and the Washington bureaucracy to help clients get things done. The Cuban-American immigration attorney has worked on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue. He knows the loopholes. He knows who to call.

And he knows how to play the long-game his clients need played to get members of Congress and the administration on their side of any given policy issue.

In this week’s episode of “Majority Minority,” the former deputy assistant attorney general talks with White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez and congressional correspondent William Douglas about how he guides his clients through the bureaucratic maze of Washington and what it’s like to be associated with what many see as the ugly underbelly of this city.

“I don’t want to characterize myself in a pejorative way,” Fresco said. “Really, I like to say I enlighten folks about their options in a way that no one else has seen. And present them a world they didn’t even know could exist of how to solve their problems.”

I try to give you the same outcome as Michael Clayton without blowing up your car.

Leon Fresco, Washington fixer

Fresco, 40, came to Washington from Miami in 2009 to become New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer’s right-hand man on immigration. He led the brutal negotiating sessions with staffers of the so-called “Gang of Eight” Senate team that, in 2013, wrote the legislation that would have given 11 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. It passed the Senate, but the House failed to pass its own version.

He later jumped over to the enforcement side defending the Obama administration’s most controversial immigration policies, including detaining immigrant mothers and children while their asylum cases played out in the courts.

With an almost encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture, Fresco is a real-life, but funnier and gentler, Michael Clayton, played by George Clooney in the legal thriller about the lawyer who did whatever necessary to take care of his employer's dirty work.

“I’m not handsome, but I try to give you the same outcome as Michael Clayton without blowing up your car,” Fresco says.

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