SEATTLE (AP) — Washington became the first state to sue the Trump administration with a filing Monday
over the president’s executive order restricting refugees and immigration. It won’t be standing alone
Since Donald Trump was elected president, Democratic state attorneys general have been forming a
coordinated wall of legal resistance over immigration, environmental protections, health care, and other
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman told The Associated Press that lawyers, including attorneys
general, are having an "awakening" regarding the Trump administration.
"This is a president who does not have respect for the rule of the law," he said. "That’s
something that bothers a lot of people."
Schneiderman has given model legislation to local governments in New York showing them how to become
sanctuary cities that would refuse to cooperate with federal authorities on some immigration enforcement
Their plan for legal pushback has precedent: Several Republican attorneys general made it a practice to
routinely file lawsuits against the policies of former President Barack Obama.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups are taking up similar fights on behalf of
individuals. But attorneys general —the chief lawyers for state governments — can sue more broadly on
behalf of their states. Most are elected and thus can act independently of their state legislatures or
"It’s my responsibility as attorney general to defend the rule of law, to uphold the Constitution on
behalf of the people of this state. And that’s what we’re doing," Washington Attorney General Bob
Ferguson said when announcing his lawsuit against Trump’s executive order.
He said other states could join the lawsuit, which asks a judge to throw out key provisions of the order
Trump issued Friday.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey was set to announce details Tuesday of a legal action on her
state’s behalf over the same policy, which temporarily closes the U.S. to all refugees and all people
from seven majority-Muslim countries and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely.
The administration says such action is needed to protect the country from terrorist attacks. Since it was
issued, the White House has said people from the banned countries who have permission to work in the
U.S. can enter.
On Sunday, 17 Democratic attorneys general signed a letter vowing to "use all of the tools of our
offices to fight this unconstitutional order." Most of the signatories were from states controlled
by Democrats and that Hillary Clinton won in November. But also signing were the Democratic attorneys
general from Iowa and Pennsylvania, which voted for Trump, and Maine, where the electoral vote was
Attorneys general have taken smaller actions since Trump was elected, both on their own and in concert.
For example, some wrote Trump calling for him to keep former President Barack Obama’s clean power plan in
In January, a group of them asked a judge to let it intervene in a court case on the constitutionality of
the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That motion could be a step toward the state officials
defending the office in court. Trump said Monday he intends to do "a big number" on the bill
that created the agency. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller told the AP that protecting the office is a
Some attorneys general banded together to urge the U.S. Senate to reject former Oklahoma Attorney General
Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions to
lead the U.S. Department of Justice.
Healey has hosted town hall meetings across Massachusetts to speak with residents about how to deal with
a Trump presidency.
"I don’t wish for or want opportunities to either sue the Trump administration, sue a federal agency
or to have to act in a way to protect people because of something the federal government has done,"
she told The Associated Press. "But we have to be prepared to do that."
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said he has spoken with advocacy groups about legal
strategies. Among them is Planned Parenthood, which is preparing to react if Trump and the GOP-led
Congress defund the organization.
One of the first steps T.J. Donovan took when he became attorney general in Vermont this month was
forming a task force to advise him on immigration policies.
State attorneys general have a history of banding together. Most notably, a series of lawsuits from them
led to the 1998 tobacco industry settlement under which cigarette makers agreed to pay states more than
$200 billion over 25 years.
Republican attorneys general sued President Obama over his health insurance overhaul minutes after he
signed it and over his rules to limit power plant emissions even before the details were final. In both
cases, courts sided with them, at least in part. After Trump won the White House in November, taking on
the president became part of the job description for their Democratic counterparts.
State attorneys general have become more active since the administration of former President George W.
Bush, especially when it comes to federal laws and policies, said a scholar who studies the office.
"It’s become such an established part of what AG’s do on the national level," said Paul
Nolette, an assistant professor of political science at Marquette University. "It’s become much
more AG’s going on the offensive."
Mulvihill reported from Haddonfield, New Jersey. Associated Press writer David B. Caruso in New York
contributed to this article.
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