New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez, JD ’05, will never forget the day in 2019 when he texted a former Stanford Law School classmate to ask if he had time to chat. The quick reply: “Busy. Call you back.”
Later that same day, Torrez happened to glance at CNN, and there was his “busy” friend, Daniel Goldman, JD ’05, arguing his case as the House Democrats’ lead counsel in the first impeachment inquiry against then-President Donald Trump. And still, Goldman called Torrez back that evening. “That’s Dan—no matter what’s going on in his extraordinary career, he still has time for his friends.”
Today, as a U.S. representative (and father of five), Goldman is probably no easier to get ahold of.
Goldman rose to prominence as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York from 2007 to 2017, successfully prosecuting a slew of high-profile cases involving mobsters, securities fraud, and a wide-ranging RICO case involving Russian organized crime. “I felt it was the highest calling in that office to go after those people who had committed themselves to a life of crime. These were not people who were desperate, or just opportunistic,” he says.
But in 2017, after his brother and niece had been killed in a plane crash, Goldman left the SDNY to grieve and to plan his next steps. Right around the same time, news that Robert Mueller had been appointed special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 elections made headlines. NBC and MSNBC quickly hired Goldman as an on-air legal analyst to break down the complex investigation.
Soon after Democrats won the House in 2018, they asked Goldman to head their investigation into whether President Trump had pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to dig up damaging information on a political rival. Goldman would go on to serve as lead counsel in proceedings that culminated in Trump’s first impeachment in 2020 (he was later acquitted by the Senate).
Running for public office was not on Goldman’s radar, but in the aftermath of January 6, 2021, he says he felt compelled “to try to preserve and protect our democracy and the rule of law.” He initially planned to run for attorney general of New York but pivoted to the 2022 congressional race for a newly created 10th District House seat. He won handily with 84 percent of the votes.
Despite House Democrats being in the minority, Goldman holds powerful seats on both the Oversight and Accountability Committee and the subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. He’s pro-choice and a proponent of affordable housing, family leave, and efforts to address climate change. As a former federal prosecutor, he’s also expected to play a prominent role. Says Goldman: “I’m certainly relying very heavily on my experience in Congress where being a lawyer, understanding the Constitution, understanding the implications and trickle-down effects of legislation, and understanding how courts interpret legislation is a real asset.”
Goldman is a descendant of the Levi Strauss family, but while his ancestors built the iconic blue jeans company, law was also a family business. He grew up in Washington, D.C., where both his father, Richard Goldman (who died when Goldman was 13), and his maternal grandfather, Sidney Sachs, served as assistant U.S. attorneys before entering private practice. In addition, Sachs was a past president of the D.C. Bar Association and a nationally recognized expert on alternative dispute resolution.
After earning his undergraduate degree at Yale, Goldman worked briefly as a sports journalist covering the Olympics, but in 2002 his interest in public service drew him to Stanford Law School. He arrived intending to do high-impact litigation in the civil rights sector.
Gabriel Soledad, JD ’05 (BA ’02), a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, says that besides playing golf and basketball together, he and Goldman shared a desire to use their Stanford law degrees “to do something meaningful in the world. Dan was always eager to understand the experiences of other people, and not in a superficial way. It didn’t feel like ambition. He cared about all the things you’d want a member of Congress to care about.”
Robert Weisberg, JD ’79, the Edwin E. Huddleson, Jr. Professor of Law at Stanford, recalls having thoughtful conversations about Olympic athletes Goldman met while working for NBC Sports. “I think he had a real feel for their human struggles and a great interest in their very human characters.”
At Stanford, Goldman participated in the Civil Rights Clinic led by Michelle Alexander, JD ’92, what he calls a high point of his SLS experience. It inspired him to write a note on felon disenfranchisement, and he worked as a research assistant on what became Alexander’s best-selling book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Goldman also was an inaugural member and later became president of the SLS chapter of the American Constitution Society.
“Stanford really facilitated high-quality relationships,” Goldman recalls of the bonds forged at SLS. “At a lot of law schools around the country, the students are incredibly competitive with each other. Stanford did a really nice job of diffusing that. We very much felt like we were part of a community and we were in it together.”
After graduating, Goldman clerked for U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco. Judge Breyer, who had started his career as an assistant district attorney, convinced Goldman that spending time as a prosecutor would give him credibility when advocating for criminal justice reform. He also understood that the experience meant he “ultimately would be the one making the discretionary decisions, rather than someone on the other side, begging another prosecutor to make the discretionary decisions.”
Breyer’s advice turned out to be sound. Of his time in the SDNY, Goldman says, “We all were very dedicated to getting the right result—not necessarily beating the defense lawyer or trying to put people in jail for as long as possible. There was a real ethos of making sure that we were always thinking about what the just outcome was.” SL
Joan O’C. Hamilton is a former bureau chief for Business Week magazine.