Officer Michael Fanone plays the part well.
He speaks with what most Americans would consider a rural drawl. He wears flannel shirts during CNN interviews and photo shoots. Large tattoos bedazzle his neck and arms; he has a beard. In a swooning front-cover profile for Time magazine, Fanone told Molly Ball he considers himself to be one of the “rednecks” who voted for Donald Trump.
But a few overlooked yet eye-popping details in Ball’s piece undermine Fanone’s public persona as the besieged D.C. undercover narcotics officer who donned an official uniform for the first time in 10 years to help rescue his colleagues from bloodthirsty Trump “insurrectionists” on January 6. Fanone has been on a nonstop publicity tour for seven months, stalking Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill and confronting his police union for its lack of support.
It all has a familiar ring; a photo posted last week by Alexander Vindman, now on a nationwide media blitz to promote his book about his role in Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial, was more than ironic. (Vindman is the national security officer who listened to Trump’s call with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky and helped shape the conversation as an impeachable “quid pro quo.”)
The pair illustrates how D.C. partisans will go to any extreme to destroy Trump and now, his supporters.
Fanone, like Vindman, has deep ties to the Beltway establishment. He was born in D.C. in 1980 and raised in the suburb of Alexandria, Virginia, situated in one of the wealthiest counties in the nation and home to much of the capital elite. Far from the rough-and-tumble life he projects on CNN interviews, Fanone grew up a rich kid.
Ball’s article vaguely described Fanone’s father as a lawyer, “a partner in a big firm” in Washington, D.C.. Fanone, Ball claimed, “hated the stuffy status-grubbing of fancy-pants D.C.”
She does not disclose his father’s name—and there’s a reason why.
Fanone’s father appears to be Joseph Fanone, senior counsel for Ballard Spahr, a Democratic Party-connected firm based in Philadelphia. (A search of past residences and other open source information seems to confirm the relationship. News organizations like Time have refused to name Fanone’s father.)
According to a campaign disclosure website, Ballard Spahr donated 88 percent of its total political contributions to Democrats in 2020. One of the firm’s partners served as a legal advisor to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign last year. Ed Rendell, the former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, is now a special counsel at Ballard Spahr.
In January 2019, Ballard Spahr opened up a government relations office in Washington, D.C. A few months later, the head of the lobbying shop, Ken Jarin, co-hosted Biden’s first official fundraiser. The event raised more than $6 million.
Lawyers for Ballard Spahr helped defend Pennsylvania’s rogue election rules for the 2020 presidential election. “We defeated more than a half-dozen lawsuits by the Trump campaign—represented by Rudy Giuliani and others—and a handful of Pennsylvania Republican Congressmen against the state and Boards of Elections in various counties, challenging mail-in voting practices and absentee ballot validity,” according to a post on the firm’s website. “In Delaware County, the Ballard Spahr team was successful in both state and federal courts. Our work helped secure the Third Circuit decision that cleared the path to election certification in Pennsylvania.”
The firm is representing CNN in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by several news organizations seeking full release of classified documents related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into unfounded Trump-Russia election collusion. Protect Democracy, an anti-Trump group funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, who also funds several NeverTrump projects, joined with Ballard Spahr to file a class action lawsuit against the Trump campaign for its use of non-disclosure agreements.
Not exactly the sort of recent portfolio that makes a law firm an uninterested political player.
Being the son of a partner in an influential D.C. law firm has its perks, such as the opportunity to attend one of the most prestigious schools in the country. Fanone’s parents sent him to Georgetown Prep—“the private school whose alumni include two U.S. Supreme Court Justices,” Ball reports in the Time puff piece—for one year but “was asked not to return.”
After a rich kid is kicked out of one elite academic institution, frustrated wealthy parents desperately try their luck at another elite academic institution. Fanone was then sent to an unnamed boarding school in Maine but he didn’t last there, either. He finally earned his diploma after graduating from Ballou High School, an almost all-black public school in D.C.
Fanone’s upbringing among the Beltway aristocracy undoubtedly puts him at ease while traversing the halls of Congress, demanding that top Republicans such as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) take a meeting with him, or testifying in front of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s show trial about the events of January 6 as a way to finally take down Donald Trump and vilify his voters. Fanone probably felt right at home in the Rose Garden last week when Joe Biden signed legislation awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to police officers who “defended democracy” and fought back the “insurrection” on January 6.
In an opinion piece published over the weekend, Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart defended Fanone as a hero and sneered that “[a]nyone unwilling to recognize [Fanone’s] valor is delusional.” Capehart also slammed those who “pretend” that January 6 was “anything but an attempt to overthrow our government.”
But it is Fanone, not insurrection-deniers, playing pretend. Fanone now spends most of his time booking media interviews—he’s on mental health leave from the department—condemning the former president and his supporters in vicious terms. He is, after all, following the successful formula of anti-Trump actors such as Alex Vindman. Fanone now is the toast of the town he’s inhabited his entire life, a town contemptuous not just of Donald Trump but of 75 million Americans who voted for him.
The only question now is which book publisher will give Fanone a multimillion-dollar advance.