California Legislature Prepares to Fight Back, Hires Former AG Holder

Former Attorney General Holder (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

In a sign of an epic showdown between California and a pending Trump Administration, Senate Leader Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced on Wednesday that they are hiring former US Attorney General Eric Holder to represent them in any legal fights against the new Trump White House.

In a joint statement, they indicated, “With the upcoming change in administrations, we expect that there will be extraordinary challenges for California in the uncertain times ahead.”

According to their announcement, “The Legislature will work with the Governor and our next Attorney General to protect California’s economy and our sensible policies on climate change, health care, civil rights and immigration.”

They said, “This is a critical moment in the history of our nation.  We have an obligation to defend the people who elected us and the policies and diversity that make California an example of what truly makes our nation great.”

They announced, “To accomplish that we will assemble the best and brightest in defense of our values and constitutional guarantees, and towards that end, the Legislature has retained the services of an expert legal team from the nationally-renowned Covington & Burling law firm, led by former United States Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. Mr. Holder and his team will serve as outside counsel to the Legislature, advising us in our efforts to resist any attempts to roll back the progress California has made.”

In a statement from Eric Holder, he said, “I am honored that the legislature chose Covington to serve as its legal advisor as it considers how to respond to potential changes in federal law that could impact California’s residents and policy priorities.  I am confident that our expertise across a wide array of federal legal and regulatory issues will be a great resource to the legislature.”

In a separate statement, Speaker Anthony Rendon would add, “While we don’t yet know the harmful proposals the next administration will put forward, thanks to Donald Trump’s campaign, cabinet appointments, and twitter feed, we do have an idea of what we will be dealing with, and we must be prepared.”

He continued, “The Covington team will be an important resource as we work with the Governor and the Attorney General to protect California from the reckless overreach we expect from Donald Trump and the Republican members of Congress who have so cravenly enabled him.”

The move comes on the heels of the nomination of Xavier Becerra as state attorney general.  He has already struck a combative tone, vowing a vigorous defense of what we’ve accomplished.

“We have policies in place that probably won’t pass at the federal level for another five, 10, 15 years,” Mr. Becerra said in December. “If you want to take on a forward-leaning state that is prepared to defend its rights and interests, then come at us.”

In light of that, Republicans, far outnumbered in the legislature, condemned the hiring of Mr. Holder as redundant and a waste of taxpayer money.

“The state’s incoming attorney general has spent decades in Washington working on federal policies,” said Assemblyman Chad Mayes in a statement. “It’s not clear why legislative Democrats needed to hire a D.C. insider to litigate the exact same issues.”

However, Speaker Rendon responded, arguing that the state Attorney General’s office is not the legislature’s legal counsel.

“The attorney general defends the state, we’ve enlisted Covington to provide us with legal advice about what we as the legislature can do and how we can react to the Trump administration’s (policies), it’s different functions,” he said.

Speaker Rendon said that, while the legislature is not looking to pick a fight, considering the rhetoric coming from the Trump administration, the legislature needs to be ready for one.

“We’re certainly going to defend ourselves,” he said.  “We’re not going to take anything that they offer us lying down.  If the administration wants to talk to California, I’m sure that we’re going to be willing to do so.  That being said, we need to be prepared for what they might do on Day 1.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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