Attorney General

Underwood Knocks Travel Ban Ruling

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood on Tuesday criticized the U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding President Donald Trump’s ban on travel from predominantly Muslim countries.

The ban, which applies to Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, also applies to North Korea and some Venezuelan officials, is the third attempt by the Trump administration to block travel from counties deemed to be a security risk to the United States.

“​President Trump’s travel bans are a stain on American history that were rooted in deep anti-Muslim animus and unleashed chaos on families, businesses, institutions, and communities throughout New York,” Underwood said. “Despite today’s ruling, New York will continue to serve as a beacon to the world, welcoming people of all faiths, races, nationalities, and backgrounds.”

The New York attorney general’s office had joined efforts to block the ban from taking effect. The 5-4 ruling at the Supreme Court is one of the first major victories in the court for the Trump administration.

“I’m proud of our work to successfully beat back President Trump’s first two discriminatory bans,” Underwood said. “My office won’t hesitate to act to protect New York’s families and ensure that we live up to the values on which this state and this nation were built.”​

Underwood Sues Trump Foundation, Alleging Illegalities

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood on Thursday announced a lawsuit against the charity founded by President Donald Trump and his family, arguing that there is a “pattern of persistent illegal conduct” that stretches back more than 10 years including efforts to boost his presidential prospects.

The suit alleges Trump used the Donald J. Trump Foundation to fund his legal bills and market his business efforts, including Trump-branded hotels, and to purchase personal items.

At the same time, the suit claims Trump used the foundation to illicitly provide support for his successful bid for the presidency in 2016. The suit points to the Trump Foundation’s name being used to raise money and promote his candidacy in the days leading up to the Iowa caucuses.

“As our investigation reveals, the Trump Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality,” Underwood said. “This is not how private foundations should function and my office intends to hold the Foundation and its directors accountable for its misuse of charitable assets.”

The foundation raised more than $2.8 million in order to influence the election, the suit alleges, including funds from a nationally televised fnudraiser that were used instead of Trump’s participation in a Republican presidential primary debate.

In addition to naming Trump, the suit also names his children, who are the directors of the foundation, Donald J. Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump.

Trump lashed out at the suit in a series of tweets, inferring incorrectly that Eric Schneiderman is still the attorney general. Schneiderman resigned last month after he was accused by multiple women of physical abuse.

Underwood was appointed by the Legislature in May to fill out the remainder of Schneiderman’s term. Schneiderman’s office did sue Trump’s for-profit college, Trump University, which ultimately resulted in a settlement.

“The sleazy New York Democrats, and their now disgraced (and run out of town) A.G. Eric Schneiderman, are doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000,” Trump posted. “I won’t settle this case!…”

But in a follow up tweet, Trump acknowledged Schneiderman was no longer in office.

“….Schneiderman, who ran the Clinton campaign in New York, never had the guts to bring this ridiculous case, which lingered in their office for almost 2 years. Now he resigned his office in disgrace, and his disciples brought it when we would not settle.”

Maloney Announces Bid For AG

Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney formally announced Wednesday he will run for attorney general – a campaign he will conduct in tandem with a bid to keep his congressional seat.

“When you’ve got crooks in the White House, crooks in Albany, and crooks in corporate suites, you need a leader with the passion to fight and the experience to win,” Maloney said. “That’s why I’m running for attorney general.”

Maloney is expected to run for the Democratic nomination in a September primary against Leecia Eve, Letitia James and Zephyr Teachout. If he’s unsuccessful, Maloney will run for re-election to his current post in a Hudson Valley congressional district that has been in the past a battleground district.

“I’ve successfully defended the Constitution and our progressive values against the Trump Administration’s attacks down in Washington – but now it’s time to go on offense,” Maloney said.

“I’ve been proud to fight for New Yorkers of all stripes throughout my career – from my experience as a young attorney fighting for immigrants and tenants – to my time working in a Democratic White House on behalf of hate crime survivors, and looking out for workers while creating jobs in the tech sector.”

Maloney has run for attorney general before, last seeking the nomination in 2006, losing in a crowded primary to Andrew Cuomo.

James Says Pardon ‘Loophole’ Should Be Closed

Democratic candidate for attorney general Tish James on Tuesday endorsed a measure that would allow state-level prosecutors to bring charges against people who have been pardoned by the president.

The support for the measure from James, one of three Democrats in the race for the attorney general nomination, comes as President Donald Trump has asserted his power to pardon himself, though he does expect it will come to that as the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election is played out.

“After careful deliberation, I am urging the State Legislature to swiftly pass legislation which safeguards against President Trump’s attacks on the rule of law in our country,” James said.

“The pending legislation closes a loophole in our state law that effectively allows the President to pardon individuals for crimes committed in New York State. Given President Trump’s recent use of the Presidential pardon in a case adjudicated in New York State and his claim that he can pardon himself as he pleases, it’s clear that we must act now. We can protect New Yorkers from double jeopardy prosecutions without giving away our state’s ability to deliver justice for all.”

The bill was initially endorsed by then-AG Eric Schneiderman, whose office has investigated Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman now accused of money laundering. Attorney General Barbara Underwood, Schneiderman’s successor, endorsed the bill last month after the pardoning of conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza.

Underwood: D’Souza Pardon Shows Need For Loophole Closure

Attorney General Barbara Underwood on Thursday reiterated her office’s push for a bill that would still allow state prosecutors to bring charges against people who received a presidential pardon.

Underwood released the statement was conservative firebrand Dinesh D’Souza was pardoned by President Donald Trump earlier in the day after he pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations stemming from 2016 donations to Republican U.S. Senate candidate Wendy Long in New York.

“President Trump’s latest pardon makes crystal clear his willingness to use his pardon power to thwart the cause of justice, rather than advance it,” Underwood said.

“By pardoning Dinesh D’Souza, President Trump is undermining the rule of law by pardoning a political supporter who is an unapologetic convicted felon. First it was Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Then it was Scooter Libby. Now it’s Dinesh D’Souza. We can’t afford to wait to see who will be next. Lawmakers must act now to close New York’s double jeopardy loophole and ensure that anyone who evades federal justice by virtue of a politically expedient pardon can be held accountable if they violate New York law.”

The bill is backed in the Legislature by Assemblyman Joe Lentol and Sen. Todd Kaminsky.

The measure had been backed by Underwood’s predecessor, Eric Schneiderman, over concerns Trump would pardon those who have worked on his campaign now facing federal indictments, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Underwood Appointed AG

Barbara Underwood was formally appointed attorney general of New York by the state Legislature on Tuesday, serving out the remainder of Eric Schneiderman’s term after his resignation this month.

“It’s a tremendous honor and I pledge to serve the great people of the state of New York with honesty, integrity and all the skills that I’ve acquired in all my decades of public service,” Underwood said after the vote.

Underwood is the first woman to officially serve as attorney general, but will not run for the job this fall. The depth of her experience and her decision to not run for the job made her an appointment both Republicans and Democrats could support.

“I think the most important thing I can do right is now is keep going,” she said. “The work this office does is important.”

The Legislature has the power to appoint a new attorney general when there is a vacancy. It’s a power Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said lawmakers had the right to use.

“The framers of the constitution — sometimes we have to give them credit and they did say they thought it was better to have all of the members of the Legislature pick the attorney general,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

Lawmakers backed Underwood from a dozen candidates who had interview publicly for the job. She was supported early on by Republicans, who are outnumbered in the joint Assembly-Senate vote.

“I think the message is the editorials worked, the peoples’ outrage worked, many of us spoke up to not have one political affiliation be in place right now,” said Sen. Jim Tedisco, a Republican from the Capital Region.

Republicans had opposed candidates who wanted to run for the job after being appointed by the Legislature, saying it would give that person an unfair advantage.

“Now they understand that the most important thing to do is leave it up to the people of New York state who should be our new attorney general,” Tedisco said. “Barbara Underwood is imminently prepared for this. She was second in command. She knows where these ethics cases are.”

Still other lawmakers, like GOP Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, praised the process itself on the floor of the chamber, saying Republican lawmakers felt included.

The appointment comes as Republicans and Democrats meet Wednesday for their state party convention. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has officially endorse New York City Public Advocate Tish James, while three Republicans are in the running for the nod.

TWU Local 100 For James

The Transport Workers Union Local 100 on Friday endorsed Democratic attorney general candidate Tish James, the latest labor endorsement she’s received in her bid for the office that officially began this week.

“I’m humbled by the support of TWU 100. The men and women of labor helped build this country and I am proud to stand with them,” James said. “As Attorney General, I will fight to safeguard the rights of working people and apply my experience, capabilities, and passion to help New Yorkers in every part of our state.”

James, the New York City public advocate, has largely cleared the field, though she could face a primary challenge for the Democratic nomination from Fordham Law School professor Zephyr Teachout. Tim Wu, Teachout’s 2014 running mate, has also signaled an interest in running.

“Our members know that Tish James has always been a fearless advocate for our rights,” said Local 100 President Tony Utano. “She has stood with us at every turn and we are confident she will continue to stand with us as our next Attorney General. We are proud to endorse Tish James, a true champion for working people, and we look forward to electing her as our New York State Attorney General.”

James Starts To Rack Up Endorsements In AG’s Race

Democratic attorney general candidate Tish James on Thursday began to rack up a series of endorsements, a day after she formally entered the race for the party’s nomination.

James was endorsed by the New York State Nurses Association, as well as state lawmakers who hold leadership posts in the state Assembly.

Tish James knows and defends the value of public education, hailing as a graduate of NYC Public Schools and CUNY,” said Nurses Association President Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez.

“She’s taken on powerful corporate interests and has served as a tireless advocate and spokesperson for marginalized communities: from housing to healthcare to daycare to environmental justice. Her track record reflects courage in combatting corruption in many forms and commitment in stopping the privatization and termination of critical public services. This is why we call her ‘the people’s lawyer.’”

James was also endorsed by Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, a Rochester-area Democrat who is running for Congress this year, as well as Assemblywoman Earlene Hooper.

“As someone who has worked with children and families my whole career, I have always admired Public Advocate Tish James’ commitment to standing up for our families,” Hooper said.

“Tish has worked to reform our foster care system, passed historic legislation to help close the wage gap for women, and used the law as a vehicle to safeguard the rights of all New Yorkers. From my district, to Long Island, to every region of our state, we can count on Tish James to be the ‘people’s lawyer’ and make us all proud.”

Lawmakers Conclude AG Interviews

Lawmakers wrapped up two days of public interviews on Wednesday, but it’s not clear when they will select the next attorney general to replace the scandal-scarred Eric Schneiderman, who resigned last week.

“I don’t think there’s necessarily any feeling that it needs to be done at any given time,” said Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle. “Obviously, people are taking it seriously and want to do the appropriate thing.”

Looming before lawmakers: The state party conventions, scheduled next week. For now, no vote for the legislative appointment has been scheduled.

“There hasn’t been yet, I can’t speak for the leaders,” said Sen. Pat Gallivan, a Republican from western New York. “My preference would be to get this over before each party holds their convention at the end of next week.”

It’s been an unusual week-and-half, even by the standards of Albany, with Schneiderman resigning amid domestic violence charges and a range of potential candidates emerging to replace him. Lawmakers spent roughly six hours over two days interviewing candidates seeking an appointment from the Legislature to the post.

“This is so rare that I think a little bit of it as, not making up the rules as you go along, but taking it one step at a time,” Gallivan said.

The leading candidate for the appointment is acting Attorney General Barbara Underwood, who would serve for the rest of the year and not run for a full term.

“I think that Barbara Underwood certainly as the solicitor general, everyone talked about how she would be the best candidate, many of the candidates themselves, and that would be a good continuation through the end of the year,” said Sen. Betty Little, a Republican from Queensbury.

The interviews came amid a broader jockeying over who will run for the job outright this fall, with Public Advocate Tish James of New York City announcing her campaign on Wednesday.

Underwood Interviews, Pledges Stability At AG’s Office

Acting Attorney General Barbara Underwood was not flashy. In fact, she largely let her resume do the talking.

“I’ve argued 20 cases in the Supreme Court, 21 cases for our state’s highest court, 33 cases in the Second Circuit,” Underwood told lawmakers during an hour-long session that amount to a job interview on Tuesday, “and I’ve closely supervised the work of attorneys for hundreds more.”

State lawmakers will decide in the coming days who will fill the job vacated by scandal-scarred former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

“Criteria is easy,” said Assemblyman Joe Lentol, a Brooklyn Democrat. “Someone who is qualified, someone who can do the job, somebody who is up to the task, who wants the job and has the credentials we deem necessary to be the attorney general of the state of New York.”

And at the moment, the leading contender is already sitting in the office: Underwood, the solicitor general who was elevated to the post only a week ago, after Schneiderman resigned in disgrace amid domestic violence allegations. Speaking to lawmakers for an hour on Tuesday in what amount to a job interview, Underwood pledged to continue the work of the AG’s office.

“Perhaps most important to me it means being a shield against discriminatory or otherwise unlawful action by the federal government that harms New York,” she said.

If appointed, Underwood would be a caretaker. She has pledged to not run for the job, steering clear of what is expected to be a crowded field of candidates.

During the interview, Democratic lawmakers asked broad questions about the AG office’s powers as well about specific issues. Republicans were more concerned with the politics of the office and what electoral ambitions Underwood may have with the office.

“I intend to continue the work the office is doing,” she told reporters after speaking with lawmakers. “I intend to bring cases or bring cases where the evidence and the law support it. That’s the job of the attorney general and I intend to do that to the best of my ability.”

Underwood said she would be able to be independent of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has praised her resume. Underwood is one of the first women to clerk at the Supreme Court and would be the first woman to serve as attorney general.

“I have a lot of experience of being independent, providing independent advice even to the person I work for and certainly clients and he would be a client,” she said.

Lawmakers will continue interviewing potential attorney general candidates for legislative appointment on Wednesday.

She was the first to speak of more than a dozen people who have submitted their names for the potential appointment by the Legislature.

Next after Underwood to speak with lawmakers about the appointment was Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, who is also vying for the job.

“If this panel decided to keep her,” he said of Underwood, “that would not be a bad decision.”