Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a number of historic decisions, including legal protections for gay and transgender workers and the continued authorization of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which grants temporary legal status to people who arrived in the United States illegally as children.
These decisions come despite opposition from the Trump administration, which has been vocal in attempting to roll back both protections. Fortunately, we have Democratic state attorneys general, including Colorado AG Phil Weiser, to thank for pushing back against the Trump administration’s legal threats and standing up for the rule of law.
Both LGBTQ+ rights and immigrant protections have been frequent targets of the Trump administration. While it has previously been rare that state attorneys general would sue the executive branch, the politicization of the Department of Justice under Trump has necessitated a strong pushback from Democratic state AGs, and Weiser has been a consistent leader in that fight.
In July 2019, Weiser joined 21 state AGs in submitting the amicus brief to the U.S Supreme Court that explains the prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in a case that would become one of last month’s historic victories.
And he was also behind the fight for DACA protections, having signed Colorado onto the multistate lawsuit aimed at preventing the president from undoing DACA, even leading a DACA rally in Denver last November.
He took his fight directly to the president last month, threatening to sue Trump directly if he deployed the military to break up protests in Colorado.
He’s also pledged that funds won from Colorado’s lawsuit against opioid manufacturers will be spent in highly-impacted Southern Colorado, where they’re needed. Weiser has proven himself, despite intimidation and opposition from the president, a common-sense leader and anti-corruption advocate.
He’s a stickler for the rule of law and a watchdog for accountable governance. This, in itself, puts him at odds with the Trump administration and William Barr’s DOJ, which has been forthright in their belief in the unchecked power of the U.S. executive.
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In fact, Barr himself – more so, even, than the president – poses a threat to accountable leadership. Donald Ayer, former Deputy U.S. Attorney General under George H.W. Bush even wrote that “[Barr] is using the office he holds to advance his extraordinary lifetime project of assigning unchecked power to the president.”
Now, his own DOJ is being investigated by the House Judiciary Committee for their deeply-politicized “investigations,” and both Barr and a high-ranking antitrust official have been subpoenaed. This exposes the depth of the institutional rot – it’s not just about the protection of the president’s allies. The DOJ has been weaponized by this president, becoming a tool to protect him from accountability and attack his political opponents.
This misuse of law enforcement powers is especially visible today as election-year paranoia spreads throughout the White House. At the direction of the president, the Barr DOJ has taken on an investigation into technology companies which Trump has erroneously criticized for being “anti-conservative,” even proposing the creation of a panel to investigate them.
It’s clear they’ve decided using the DOJ’s antitrust wing would be a less obvious attempt at political retribution.
Concerningly, the Barr/Trump DOJ’s influence has apparently motivated a parallel investigation by 50 state attorneys general, which is now under the control of Trump allies across the country, including Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Add this to the list of Paxton’s favors for Trump, which already includes his fight to stop vote-by-mail during the COVID-19 pandemic and his push to use the lockdown as cover to strip reproductive choice in Texas.
In a field of bad-faith actors, Weiser and other Democratic state AGs nationwide have an opportunity to continue pushing back, not allowing their efforts to be hijacked or directed by the president’s national PR lackeys and political fixers. I encourage everyone who agrees with me to call the AG’s office and thank them for their steadfast commitment to the rule of law.
Weiser’s unwavering leadership has helped protect the independence of our law enforcement mechanisms and stand up for equal protections and civil liberties, a fight Coloradans are proud to support.
Sandy Briggs is a former Summit County Democratic Party county chair, campaign manager and a lifelong progressive activist.
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