New York Attorney General Holds Trump and Cuomo Accountable | New York
The two men were born ten years apart in Queens, New York, one heir to a real estate fortune and the other to a political dynasty. Donald Trump became president and Andrew Cuomo becomes governor, like his father.
During their long and controversial careers, the two have seemed untouchable. But thanks to the recent work of a longtime public servant, born into a large family in Brooklyn with no inheritance money or power, every man suddenly faces a moment of unusual responsibility.
State Attorney General Letitia James, the first woman of color to hold a statewide elected post in New York City, cut a hole in the fable of Cuomo’s pandemic leadership with a report in january showing that the state underreported deaths in nursing homes by up to half.
A rapid succession of sexual harassment complaints against Cuomo in the weeks that followed knocked him out of his political office and left open the question of whether he would withdraw his candidacy for re-election in 2022 – or even step down before that. the end of his current third term.
Trump could be in even more danger. Since 2019, James’ office has been investigating business practices within the Trump Organization and his family. Trump has fought fiercely in court, but month after month James has managed to unearth financial records that appear to pose a giant legal risk to the former president, analysts say.
“He should be very worried,” said George Albro, co-chair of the New York Progressive Action Network who has known James since he was a union leader in New York and a public lawyer. “She’s going to bring this to its logical conclusion.”
The Trump affair and Cuomo retirement home scandal generated a torrent of national attention for James, with people on the outside New York politician wondering how a single state officer could make such great legal waves.
People who have known her from her time as a public lawyer in New York City – when she was the first woman of color to be elected in the entire city – and her time as a city council member before that nod in recognition: it’s Tish.
As the state’s attorney general, James aggressively pursued a comprehensive catalog of progressive causes.
She sued the police department for brutality against people of color, blocked illegal evictions during the pandemic, won a major sexual harassment settlement for women in the construction industry, filed an amicus brief before the Supreme Court opposing a hasty census and prosecuted to dissolve the Association National du Fusil.
She also sued Amazon for allegedly failing to protect workers, sued Facebook as a suspected monopoly, and investigated Google on similar grounds. She has called on federal regulators to tackle toxins in baby foods and called for student debt relief.
“I see the law as both a shield and a sword,” she said. noted in a public discussion last year on black leadership. “And so I wake up every day with a fire in my stomach, and I walk into the office – well, I actually walk into my kitchen – and the question is, what can I do today to make a difference in someone’s life? Who can I sue? “
James acknowledged past critics who thought she filed too many lawsuits without doing enough stick. But she argues that “the law should be a tool for social change” – and with the pressure it has placed on Trump causing visible stress among family members, the impact of her efforts is evident and the mood of the audience is with her with enthusiasm.
That kind of momentum has led to speculation about what might be the next step for the political pioneer with impeccable grassroots credentials who maintains a huge pool of goodwill in New York as well as a disarming, down-to-earth approach. earth on and off the election campaign. .
“Everyone still calls me Tish,” she told Melva M Miller, executive director of the Census Watch Association for a Better New York City, in a public forum last year. “I still have to do my laundry later – I’m still Tish. I have to go to the grocery store – I’m still Tish.
James, 62, one of eight children, attended Brooklyn Public School, graduated from Lehmann College at the University of the City of New York, and received a law degree from Howard University, the historically black University of Washington DC.
Her first memory of the justice system, she said, was seeing a judicial officer verbally assault her mother during a hearing for a sibling.
“When I looked into the courtroom, all of the accused and all of the family looked like me, but not all of those in a position of power, and there was something really unbalanced and unfair about it. topic, “James told Miller.
Prior to her election to New York City Council in 2003, James worked as a public defender, advisor to the President of the State Assembly, and deputy attorney general of Brooklyn, where she targeted predatory lenders, advocated for families of workers and brought the first case against the New York City Police Department for so-called stop-and-frisk abuse.
She lost a primary race to join city council, but was able to resume her candidacy when the incumbent was shot inside the town hall. During her 10 years on the board, she has established herself as an advocate for police reform and better social housing.
She also showed a fearlessness in taking on powerful political figures, helping to lead the charge against an effort by then-mayor Michael Bloomberg to change the city’s rules and grab a third term in power (a fight Bloomberg has won).
Some political allies questioned, however, whether James’ stance of antagonism towards the powerful would apply to Cuomo, who paved the way for his political future by endorsing him as attorney general.
As a candidate under Cuomo’s protection, James insisted that she was “neither sponsored nor bought” by the governor. The results of her explosive investigation into how the Cuomo administration failed to report nursing home deaths from Covid-19 show she meant those words, Albro said.
“She told us that she would be independent from the governor and I think she proved it,” he said.
Her battle against Trump has the potential to elevate James’ profile – and outlook – even further, spurring open speculation that she may succeed the governor whose alleged misconduct she was instrumental in exposing. Prior to being elected governor, Cuomo was the state attorney general – the same position James holds now.
“I think she wants to be governor, I think it’s clear, and she would be a great candidate,” Albro said.
“I think she would be a great candidate because she’s so loved and known in the city and that’s a big part of the vote.”