Capitol Alert

California Legislature to pay Eric Holder to challenge Trump administration

Kevin de León on hiring Eric Holder to watch Trump

California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León discussed the Legislature's decision to hire former US Attorney General Eric Holder to serve as outside counsel to take on the Trump Administration.
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California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León discussed the Legislature's decision to hire former US Attorney General Eric Holder to serve as outside counsel to take on the Trump Administration.

The California Legislature will pay the firm of former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder $25,000 a month to assist with legal challenges posed by policy conflicts with the Trump Administration, Democratic leaders announced Wednesday.

“Now more than ever we need to have the best legal minds to join in and prepare to defend the state in the event that they actually do carry out the threats that they have declared,” said Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León.

The initial agreement between the Legislature and Holder’s firm, Covington & Burling, covers a three-month period, according to Assembly spokesman Kevin Liao. The Assembly and Senate have agreed to split the cost, and leaders say the money will be pooled from current operating budgets.

“It is a minimum investment because of what’s at stake here: Tens of billions of dollars that may be lost because of a hostile admininstration toward the policies of California and the people of California,” de León said.

State Democratic leaders struck a defiant tone against President-Elect Donald Trump from the outset. The day after the election, Rendon and de León issued a statement praising California, which voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton, and pledging to protect the state from Trump policies that may hurt the economy or infringe on the rights of people living in the state.

Gov. Jerry Brown nominated Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles to succeed incoming U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris as California attorney general, saying he believes Becerra will help him continue to aggressively combat climate change. Becerra himself has already challenged the Trump administration to “come at us ... if you want to take on a forward-leaning state that is prepared to defend its rights and interests” on everything from environmental laws to health care to protecting undocumented immigrants.

Republican lawmakers were quick to condemn Holder’s hiring as a waste of taxpayer money.

“The state’s incoming attorney general has spent decades in Washington working on federal policies,” said Assemblyman Chad Mayes, R-Yucca Valley, in a statement. “It’s not clear why legislative Democrats needed to hire a D.C. insider to litigate the exact same issues.”

Senator Ted Gaines, R-El Dorado Hills, criticized Democrats for reacting to “tweets and phantom proposals” before Trump is even sworn in.

“My constituents deserve tax relief, not more irresponsible, unnecessary government squandering that will be taken right out of their pockets,” Gaines said.

While Becerra was at the center of many federal immigration and health care policy debates, the legislative leaders characterized bringing in Holder and outside counsel as supplementing the state’s legal firepower. De León said Holder has “credibility and cachet” as the former attorney general.

Trump’s cabinet selections prove the president-elect’s proposals on the campaign trail were more than campaign rhetoric to win the election, the Senate leader said. The president-elect’s choices, he said, pose “a clear and present danger to the economic prosperity of the fifth largest economy in the world.”

“I am honored that the Legislature chose Covington to serve as its legal advisor as it considers how to respond to potential changes in federal law that could impact California’s residents and policy priorities,” 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.”

De León has connections to Covington that extend beyond Holder.

Dan Shallman, a partner in the firm’s Los Angeles office, is the brother of John Shallman, whose Southern California-based political consulting and advertising agency serves as the longtime consulting house for de León and several other California elected officials.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna Christopher Cadelago contributed to this report.

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