State AGs Vow to Be "First Line of Defense" to Block Trump's Constitutional Violations

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey speaking at an event in February. (Photo: Jennifer Cogswell via City Year/flickr/cc)

State AGs Vow to Be "First Line of Defense" to Block Trump's Constitutional Violations

Statements from five states' top legal officers follow ACLU promise to defend against Trump's "one-man constitutional crisis"

As members of vulnerable communities and their allies gear up for threats the upcoming Donald Trump administration and Republican-controlled Congress could unleash, the top legal officers in at least five states are also preparing, announcing they are ready to be "the first line of defense" to block any constitutional violations.

Reuters reports that the statements come from the state attorneys general in Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, and Washington. They are all Democrats.

Massachusetts AG Maura Healey, for example, said in a statement that "[i]f the incoming administration chooses to try to act in ways that are unconstitutional, my office will take action to protect the rights and liberties of our residents and our state."

Bob Ferguson, Washington state's AG, told the news agency, "I view my role as being on the first line of defense against a Trump administration if it chooses to act in an unconstitutional fashion." Reuters notes that state attorneys general "generally have legal standing to bring lawsuits challenging federal regulations or executive actions, including those that may infringe upon civil rights, to weaken consumer protection or climate change policies, for example, could lead to conflict between the states and the federal government."

New York AG Eric Schneiderman and Maryland AG Brian E. Frosh (pdf) have already responded to a post-election uptick in reports of abuse, hate speech, and assault against Muslims, people of color, immigrants, Latinos, and the LGBTQ community. Schneiderman said, "As the state's top law enforcement officer, let me assure anyone who is feeling scared or threatened at this time that this office stands behind you and has your back."

Schneiderman also issued a statement Thursday saying that he was "deeply troubled by reports that the Presidential Transition Team is considering ways to eviscerate some of the most basic consumer and investor protection laws in the country."

"Any attempt to gut these consumer and investor protections [known as Blue Sky laws] would severely undercut state police powers and only embolden those who seek to defraud and exploit everyday Americans. At a time of regulatory uncertainty at the federal level, it is essential that we maintain the very laws that have helped state and local law enforcement keep consumers and investors safe for over one hundred years," Schneiderman said.

The AGs have good reason to get ready for potential court battles: In its analysis entitled "The Trump Memos," the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that the president-elect's propals "to deport over 11 million undocumented immigrants, to ban Muslims from entering the United States, to surveil American Muslims and their houses of worship, to torture again, and to revise libel laws" would infringe upon the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments. As such, they "would blatantly violate the inalienable rights guaranteed by the Constitution."

Recognizing these threats, the ACLU said ahead of the election that it was preparing to defend against Trump's "one-man constitutional crisis." The day after his election, the organization said to Trump, "If you do not reverse course and instead endeavor to make these campaign promises a reality, you will have to contend with the full firepower of the ACLU at every step. Our staff of litigators and activists in every state, thousands of volunteers, and millions of card-carrying supporters are ready to fight against any encroachment on our cherished freedoms and rights."

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