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California Hires Eric Holder for Fight Against Trump

Eric Holder
Eric Holder

The former U.S. attorney general will help the state resist the incoming president's regressive policies.

California is determined to stand up to any regressive policy moves pushed by Donald Trump when he becomes president -- a stance it made even stronger today when the state legislature hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to represent it in fights against the Trump administration.

"He will be our lead litigator, and he will have a legal team of expert lawyers on the issues of climate change, women and civil rights, the environment, immigration, voting rights -- to name just a few," California Senate leader Kevin de Leon told the Los Angeles Times.

Holder's team will come from Covington & Burling, a Washington, D.C., law firm he rejoined after leaving the attorney general's post in 2015. The firm, where Holder worked from 2001 to 2009 before becoming President Obama's first attorney general, focuses on representing states and companies in actions against the federal government. It has an office in Los Angeles as well as D.C.

"Having the former attorney general of the United States brings us a lot of firepower in order to prepare to safeguard the values of the people of California," De Leon said in another interview, with The New York Times. "This means we are very, very serious."

Trump's vows to reverse progressive policies weren't "just campaign rhetoric," De Leon added to the New York newspaper. "He was surrounding himself with people who are a very clear and present danger to the economic prosperity of California."

Holder released a statement saying, "I am honored that the legislature chose Covington to serve as its legal adviser 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."

Hiring an outside law firm to represent the state is unusual but not unprecedented, the Los Angeles Times notes. Legal representation is generally the duty of the state's attorney general, and California Gov. Jerry Brown has nominated state Rep. Xavier Becerra to take over that post from Kamala Harris, who just became a U.S. senator.

"It is far more unorthodox for both houses to join together in retaining counsel in a preemptive bid to prepare for as-yet-unknown litigation and policy-making at the federal level," the L.A. paper reports. "Much of the arrangement remains murky, including how Holder's efforts will differ from or align with Becerra's."

The fee to Holder's firm has yet to be set but will be disclosed when it is, De Leon said. "The cost will be very minimal compared to the billions of dollars at stake if California doesn't adequately make its case," he told The New York Times.

California legislative leaders announced their opposition to Trump the day after the election, issuing a statement that read, "We will not be dragged into the past. We will lead the resistance to any effort that would shred our social fabric or our Constitution." Brown, Harris, and others have also vowed to stand up to the incoming Republican president. California's Senate and Assembly both have a Democratic majority, and Brown, Becerra, and Harris are Democrats as well.

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