Elliot Abrams is an American lawyer and author who has served in a variety of foreign policy positions for several U.S. Presidents.
Abrams was born on January 24, 1948, in New York. His father was an immigration lawyer. Abrams attended the Little Red School House in New York City. He received his B.A. from Harvard College, a master’s degree in international relations from the London School of Economics, and his J.D. from Harvard Law School.
He practiced law in New York in the summers for his father, and then at Breed, Abbott & Morgan from 1973 to 1975 and with Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand from 1979 to 1981.
Abrams worked as an assistant counsel on the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in 1975, then worked as a staffer on Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson’s brief campaign for the 1976 Democratic Party presidential nomination. From 1977 through 1979, he served as special counsel and ultimately as chief of staff for Senator Daniel Moynihan.
Abrams first came to national prominence when he served as Ronald Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs in the early 1980s and later as Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs. His nomination to Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. During his tenure in the Reagan administration, Abrams regularly clashed with church groups and human rights organizations over Reagan’s support for military regimes in Central America.
Abrams also had a role in the Iran-Contra Affair, where he was indicted for giving false testimony about his part in the illegal fund raising and arms selling scandal that was sanctioned by Reagan. Abrams pled guilty to two lesser counts of withholding information from Congress to avoid a probable term in prison. He was sentenced to a $50 fine, probation for two years, and 100 hours of community service. Abrams was pardoned by President George H. W. Bush in December 1992.
During George W. Bush’s first term in office, Abrams was appointed as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director on the National Security Council for Near East and North African Affairs. In Bush’s second term, he was given the job of deputy national security adviser.
In February 2017, it was reported that Abrams was Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s first pick for Deputy Secretary of State, but that Tillerson was overruled by President Trump. Despite support among some aides in the White House, Trump opposed him because of Abrams’ opposition to his nomination during the 2016 campaign.
Abrams was a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Additionally, he held positions on the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf (CPSG), Center for Security Policy & National Secretary Advisory Council, Committee for a Free Lebanon, and the Project for the New American Century. He was also a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council and a member of the faculty of Georgetown University.
On January 25, 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appointed Abrams as the United States’ Special Representative for Venezuela. Upon the resignation of Brian Hook, Abrams was selected to succeed him as United States Special Representative for Iran.
Abrams is the author of several books on foreign policy and related subjects, including Undue Process,Security and Sacrifice, and the controversial Faith or Fear: How Jews Can Survive in a Christian America. In Faith or Fear, Abrams wrote, “Outside the land of Israel, there can be no doubt that Jews, faithful to the covenant between God and Abraham, are to stand apart from the nation in which they live.” He says that this should not imply disloyalty to America or any other country where Jews live outside of Israel, but that Jews must be loyal to Israel because they “are in a permanent covenant with God and with the land of Israel and its people.”
Abrams was married to Rachel Decter until her death in 2013. He has two sons, Jacob and Joseph, and one daughter, Sarah.
Photo: Public Domain.