Donald Trump

Attorney General Maura Healey Helping Lead Effort to Litigate President Trump

Maura Healey doesn't wake up every morning thinking about ways to sue Donald Trump, she says — though to her critics and supporters alike it can seem that way.

In the year since Trump was elected, few more zealous legal foes of the Republican president have emerged than Healey, the Democratic attorney general of Massachusetts. She has led or joined dozens of lawsuits and legal briefs targeting a raft of Trump policies, from his travel ban to his decision to roll back an Affordable Care Act requirement that employers include birth control coverage in health plans.

In that time, she has also emerged as one of the leaders of a cadre of Democratic, blue-state attorneys general who have employed their states' legal clout as a weapon against Trump's conservative agenda. Her office's court filings have often been linked with or mirrored those of Eric Schneiderman in New York, Xavier Becerra in California and Bob Ferguson in Washington, among others.

"I just see myself as doing my job," Healey told The Associated Press in an interview. "And my job is to enforce the law."

But her rapid-fire lawsuits have drawn criticism from political rivals who see it more as partisan grandstanding than dealing with law-and-order issues facing Massachusetts residents.

"If you ask any working family in the commonwealth if they would rather have their child solicited by a drug dealer in their neighborhood or have the Trump administration sued over an obscure environmental regulation, they would hands-down want to make sure their family is safe," said Dan Shores, a Boston-based attorney who recently announced plans to run against Healey as a Republican.

Less than a week after Trump's win in November 2016, Healey announced the creation of a hotline following what she said were reports of harassment of racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women, LGBTQ people, and immigrants since Election Day.

In the first weeks of the presidency, Healey joined a coalition of 16 other attorneys general to defend the Consumer Financial Protection Board, argued with seven other attorneys general opposing any weakening of federal greenhouse gas emissions standards, and led a coalition of four states and the District of Columbia to intervene in a lawsuit they said would protect students from predatory for-profit schools.

Those were quickly followed by Healey's decision to join a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in late January challenging Trump's executive order banning travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Since then, her pace hasn't eased. By her count, she said, she has led or participated in more than 20 lawsuits.

On Friday alone, Healey joined with other attorneys general to file two more lawsuits, one against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for failing to help provide loan relief for former students of a now-defunct chain of for-profit colleges and a second against the Federal Communications Commission over its vote to rollback net neutrality protections.

"When word comes out that there's been an executive order or there's been some action by a federal agency, the first question I ask is — what is the impact on Massachusetts?" Healey told the AP. "When the travel ban came out, the calls I received were from business leaders, life science companies, tech companies, our colleges and universities, our teaching hospitals, the economic engine and lifeblood of this state."

The efforts by Healey and other attorneys general and advocacy groups have yielded mixed results, with many of the lawsuits still unresolved.

In October, a federal judge in California declined to issue a temporary restraining order sought by the Democratic attorneys general against Trump's executive order ending federal subsidies that offset health insurance co-payments and deductibles for low-income people.

But the states have also prevailed, for example helping an effort to block Trump's proposed ban on transgender people in the U.S. military. A lawsuit filed by 15 states in August may have also played a role in the EPA's decision one day later to back off on plans to delay Obama-era rules intended to reduce emissions of smog-causing pollution.

While most attorneys general she has worked with on lawsuits are Democrats, Healey said, she doesn't see her effort as partisan, noting she was able to get more than 30 attorneys general, including Republicans, to sign onto a letter to Congress. The letter, co-sponsored by GOP Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, asked lawmakers to evaluate whether "bump stocks" like that used in the Las Vegas music festival shooting should be regulated in the same fashion as machine guns.

In her two years as attorney general before Trump became president, Healey's office frequently praised actions by Barack Obama's administration and did not publicly announce the filing of any lawsuit against any federal agency.

There is also little political downside for Healey's aggressive stance in a state where Hillary Clinton defeated Trump by 27 points.

Healey, a 46-year-old former college basketball star at Harvard and the first openly gay attorney general in the U.S., has emerged as one of Massachusetts' most popular elected officials and is routinely mentioned as a future contender for governor or U.S. Senate.

But for the moment, she is running for election to a second term in 2018. And she has sometimes followed up her lawsuits with fundraising appeals to supporters.

Healey said she will continue to challenge Trump's policies they are illegal and unconstitutional.

"If state AGs aren't doing it, who's going to do it? The Department of Justice isn't going to do it," she said. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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