Why This Presidential Election Isn’t 2020 All Over Again

The man behind the Texas bounty hunter law is also representing Trump.

Collage image of Jonathan Mitchell and Donald Trump
Jonathan Mitchell is auditioning to be Trump's attorney general. Shutterstock/Stanford Law/Austen Risolvato/Rewire News Group illustration

This piece first appeared in our weekly newsletter, The Fallout.

Barring some kind of legal or political (or divine) intervention, it appears as though Republicans will nominate Donald Trump as their presidential candidate. Early media reactions have this billed as 2020 all over again, and while it’s true in the literal sense that we’re likely looking at a Trump-Biden rematch, that’s where the comparison ends. Thanks to the Supreme Court reversing Roe v. Wade and the Trump justices who created that reality, the stakes going into November are now much higher.

In some ways, it doesn’t matter who the Republicans nominate because we know any Republican administration will further decimate abortion rights and access. Every conservative candidate has promised to promote some form of a national ban on abortion, gender-affirming care, and contraception. But in other ways it matters very deeply if Trump is the nominee, because we know his version of a national abortion ban would be especially nasty—because for Trump and his allies, the cruelty is the point.

To that end, Trump has Jonathan Mitchell in his corner. Mitchell is the attorney and ideologue responsible for a host of anti-abortion legal cruelties, including Texas’ abortion bounty hunter ban. He is currently part of Trump’s legal team in the case before the Supreme Court challenging Colorado’s decision to keep Trump off its primary ballot thanks to all that insurrection business he’s involved in.

What is Mitchell, whose primary professional obsession seems to be upending legal norms in the name of forced pregnancy and birth for the conservative movement, doing on the Trump legal insurrection team? Probably auditioning for the role of attorney general in a future Trump administration.

Few scenarios chill my blood as much as the possibility of an Attorney General Mitchell, and after the Iowa caucus results this week, it’s a nightmare that could become reality. Mitchell is one of the proponents of resurrecting the Comstock Act to try and upend mifepristone access, and if he were to have his way, the Reconstruction-era statute would be used to ban abortion altogether. Based on the kinds of cases he takes on—including representing an ex-husband trying to punish people who helped his former wife get an abortion—it’s clear Mitchell takes some kind of pleasure in the devastation abortion bans have on people’s lives.

In 2020 we still had Roe, as broken and flawed as it was. In 2024 we have Dobbs, story after story after story of trauma and devastation from denials of care, and two Supreme Court cases poised to make this human rights crisis that much worse.

So yes, we are probably looking at a Biden-Trump rematch. But that’s where the comparisons to the 2020 election end.