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Lott says lobbying firm cut ties to prevent him from taking clients

Former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) on Tuesday said he was in negotiations to depart lobbying firm Squire Patton Boggs prior to the firm announcing they were severing ties with him, citing that it was anticipating issues that could arrive amid anti-racism protests that have erupted across the country.

“It’s really quite simple. Sen. Breaux and I had decided maybe it’s time that we move on from the law firm,” Lott told The Hill. “Instead of trying to work it out amicably with maybe a joint statement, they took this low road. I would say it surprises me but it doesn’t.” 

Lott and former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) opened up a lobbying firm together in 2008, which was purchased by Squire Patton Boggs in 2010.

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Lott added, “What they’re really trying to do is cut off our ability to leave and get or take clients, that’s what it’s really all about.”

Squire Patton Boggs Chairman and global CEO Mark Ruehlmann said in a statement on Monday that the firm “decided that it is the right time to make a change in the leadership of our industry leading Public Policy practice.”

“As a global law firm, we are obliged to constantly evaluate and tailor our professional offerings to not only respond, but also anticipate the issues and concerns of an evolving marketplace and the clients we serve,” he said in the statement. 

Lott stepped down as Senate Republican leader in 2002 after receiving backlash over remarks praising former Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), who was a well-known proponent of segregation policies, for winning Mississippi in the 1948 presidential election. 

“That happened 18 years ago, it’s not a new thing. We have some great clients and I hope we can get some more. I think people understand what’s going on. Law firms work tough. I am a lawyer ... but it’s a rough and tumble business,” Lott said.

Lott said three firms have already reached out to him.

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“They want Breaux too. We’ve been a team for 30 years. We were in the House together, we were in the Senate together,” he said.

Breaux is resigning from Squire Patton Boggs on Tuesday, two sources told The Hill. He did not respond to The Hill's request for comment.

Ruehlmann noted in his email on Monday that the remaining team includes Breaux, as well as former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerPrinciples to unify America Feehery: A possible House Speaker conundrum for Democrats Obama on bipartisanship: 'There is a way to reach out and not be a sap' MORE (R-Ohio) and others.

“When you’re with a big firm, you’re always running into conflicts. You can’t do this, you can’t do that, and we were looking at another option and they reacted very poorly with it, obviously,” Lott said.

Squire Patton Boggs spokesman Angelo Kakolyris said the firm has no comment beyond its written statement from Monday evening. 

A source familiar with the move told The Hill that Squire Patton Boggs tried to “negatively brand Lott's departure” after becoming angry that he was talking to another firm.