As the chief legal officers of our states, attorneys general possess a tremendous power to shape public opinion and make official decisions that can affect the outcomes of cases.
Regardless of party affiliation, when it comes to exercising the prosecutorial function of our offices, there are certain rules that every attorney general agrees to — and certain lines that should never be crossed.
We should never weaponize our office for political gain, regardless of the situation, even when the sitting president of the United States is a citizen of the state we serve. Unfortunately, some of my colleagues across the aisle have done just that.
During her campaign, New York Attorney General Letitia James threw out numerous vague and baseless allegations, promising to harass and investigate President Trump’s family and businesses that “may be engaged in illegal conduct.” Although Trump was duly elected, she claims he is an illegitimate president. This is nothing less than a gross abuse of her office.
On multiple occasions before and after her election, James accused the president of money-laundering, offering zero evidence. She promised to “definitely sue him,” and since her election, she has made good on that promise. While she has admitted in court that she doesn’t have any evidence of wrongdoing, she has never retracted her public assertions of criminal activity. She has spent much of her time in office on anti-Trump fishing expeditions.
No prosecutor should run on a platform of threatening an innocent American citizen, his family and his private businesses with investigations and lawsuits — all for political gain.
We should also not seek to change state laws for the specific purpose of political harassment. Yet that is what the New York attorney general offered by promising a bill to change the Empire State’s double-jeopardy laws just in case she wants to sue nonspecific people whom the president may one day pardon.
Just a few months after her election, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed such a bill into law, thanking James for her zealous advocacy.
This is what an abuse of prosecutorial discretion looks like. Fairness and due process are bedrock principles of the American justice system. The president doesn’t have fewer rights than any other American citizen, and yet the left has repeatedly violated these principles as they antagonize him.
Daniel Goldman, who served as the Democratic majority counsel in the impeachment inquiry against the president and as staff counsel to the House managers in the subsequent impeachment, rightfully noted in the context of James’ statements, “They give the appearance of an individualized political vendetta . . . It’s essential that prosecutors maintain their neutrality and an objective view of the facts and the evidence, no matter the politics involved.”
We public servants shouldn’t allow any of our colleagues on either side of the political spectrum to abuse the levers of government simply to punish our political opponents.
While these actions may be popular with a liberal base that doesn’t respect the rule of law, they politicize the office of attorney general and create an unrealistic and shameful public perception of how a state attorney general operates. James’ conduct disgraces all of us who are privileged to bear the title of attorney general.
Jeff Landry is the attorney general of Louisiana and chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association.
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