California hires Eric Holder as legal bulwark against Donald Trump

© Doug Mills/The New York Times. President Obama with Eric H. Holder Jr. in September 2014, when Mr. Holder announced he was stepping down as attorney general.

LOS ANGELES — Girding for four years of potential battles with President-elect Donald J. Trump, Democratic leaders of the California Legislature announced Wednesday that they had hired Eric H. Holder Jr., who was attorney general under President Obama, to represent them in any legal fights against the new Republican White House.

The decision by the Legislature to retain Mr. Holder, who is now a prominent Washington lawyer, is the latest sign of the ideological battle that may play out over the next four years between this predominantly Democratic state and Washington. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate for president, defeated Mr. Trump by more than four million votes here.

“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,” Kevin de León, the Democratic leader of the Senate, said in an interview. “This means we are very, very serious.”

Mr. de León said he expected California to challenge Washington — and defend itself from policies instituted in Washington — on issues including the environment, immigration and criminal justice. He said California Democrats decided to turn to Mr. Holder as they watched Mr. Trump assemble his cabinet and begin to set the tone for his presidency.

“It was very clear that it wasn’t just campaign rhetoric,” Mr. de León said of Mr. Trump’s proposals over the past year. “He was surrounding himself with people who are a very clear and present danger to the economic prosperity of California.”

The move by Mr. de León and his Democratic counterpart in the Assembly, Anthony Rendon, follows Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointment of Representative Xavier Becerra as attorney general last month, to succeed Kamala D. Harris, who was elected to the United States Senate.

That appointment made Mr. Becerra one of the highest-ranking Latino officials in this state, and he is expected to be instrumental in battling with the Trump White House over any attempt to enforce stringent measures aimed at immigrants. Mr. Brown has made clear that he intends to challenge the administration on global warming and that his attorney general will be a key to that battle.

The Democratic Party controls two-thirds of both the Assembly and the Senate in California. Every statewide elected official is a Democrat.

Mr. Holder was Mr. Obama’s attorney general from 2009 to 2015. He was the first African-American to hold that position. He is a partner at Covington & Burling, a law firm in Washington that specializes in representing states and companies against the federal government.

“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,” Mr. Holder said in a statement. “I am confident that our expertise across a wide array of federal legal and regulatory issues will be a great resource to the Legislature.”

The Legislature has an ample stable of lawyers on staff, but officials said Mr. Holder and his firm brought specific litigation and political skills that could be needed in the coming years. Mr. de León said the final compensation for the firm had not been set, but would be publicly disclosed once it was.

“The cost will be very minimal compared to the billions of dollars at stake if California doesn’t adequately make its case,” he said.

California Dems tap Eric Holder to fight Trump in court

Democratic leaders of the California state legislature have hired Eric Holder, the former attorney general during the Obama administration, to serve as outside legal counsel as they prepare for a series of court battles with President-elect Donald Trump's White House.

In a statement released Wednesday, California Senate President Kevin de Leon and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon -- both Democrats -- announced they had "hired outside legal counsel to advise on potential legal challenges with the incoming Trump administration."

"With the upcoming change in administrations, we expect that there will be extraordinary challenges for California in the uncertain times ahead," the state leaders said. They vowed to protect "California's economy and our sensible policies on climate change, health care, civil rights, and immigration."

To accomplish that goal, the legislature said it retained the Covington & Burling law firm, led by Holder.

"Mr. Holder and his team will serve as outside legal counsel to the Legislature, advising us in our efforts to resist any attempts to roll back the progress California has made."

CNN has reached out to the Trump transition team for comment and have not yet received a response.

In the statement, Holder said that he was "honored" that his legal firm had been tapped by the California legislature, and said he is "confident that our expertise across a wide array of federal legal and regulatory issues will be a great resource."

The California legislature's move to hire Holder, a high-profile Obama alum, adds to the deep-blue state's reputation as the center of liberal opposition to the new Trump administration.

"This is a critical moment in the history of our nation. We have an obligation to defend the people who elected us and the policies and diversity that make California an example of what truly makes our nation great," the state's Democratic leaders said.

State Democratic leaders have promised to fight to maintain "sanctuary cities" -- something Trump pledged to fight during his presidential campaign -- and De Leon, with Rendon, introduced sweeping state legislation in late December to blunt Trump's expected immigration policies. The measures, expected to pass early this year, would offer undocumented immigrants more access to legal help and would further spell out the limits of local law enforcement's cooperation with federal immigration agents.

De León, California's first Latino elected leader of the state Senate in more than a century, has been signaling his willingness to fight Republicans since Trump was elected.

"We don't want to fight," he said in December. "We're not looking for a fight. But if necessary, we will fight to protect the values of California. Given what I've seen so far with regard to the Cabinet selections, there probably is going to be a fight around the corner very, very soon."

Eric Holder Hired by California for Legal Battles Against Trump

Former Attorney General Eric Holder will back the California Legislature in potential legal clashes with the incoming Trump administration.

Holder, currently a partner at the law firm Covington & Burling, will serve as an adviser and outside counsel to help "resist any attempts to roll back the progress California has made" — in particular with climate change, health care, civil rights and immigration issues, legislative leaders said Wednesday.

Democrats control both houses in California's Legislature as well as the governor's office. The left-leaning state, which went overwhelmingly for Trump's opponent Hillary Clinton, is poised to be at the forefront of legal battles with the GOP-led federal government.

"With the upcoming change in administrations, we expect that there will be extraordinary challenges for California in the uncertain times ahead," California Senate leader Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said in a joint statement.

Holder would potentially work with the governor's pick for state attorney general, Congressman Xavier Becerra, who is expected to be confirmed next week.

Holder added that his firm will help look at any changes to federal law and their impact on California. For instance, the state would see the biggest increase in uninsured residents if Obamacare were repealed by Republicans in Washington, CNBC reported.

Some California cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, have been vocal about potential changes in federal immigration policy under Trump that could lead to mass deportations.

Holder, who served as attorney general under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2015, has been an outspoken critic of Trump.

In October, he called out then-candidate Trump's threat to prosecute Clinton over her use of a private email server.

"Be afraid of any candidate who says he will order DOJ/FBI to act on his command," Holder tweeted.

De León told The New York Times that Holder's compensation was still being worked out, but that it will be publicly disclosed.

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