The Impact Of A New Acting Attorney General On The Russia Investigation The appointment of a new acting U.S. Attorney General raises questions about the future of the Mueller probe.
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The Impact Of A New Acting Attorney General On The Russia Investigation

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The Impact Of A New Acting Attorney General On The Russia Investigation

The Impact Of A New Acting Attorney General On The Russia Investigation

The Impact Of A New Acting Attorney General On The Russia Investigation

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/669007522/669007523" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The appointment of a new acting U.S. Attorney General raises questions about the future of the Mueller probe.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

It's still not clear what impact President Trump's appointment of a new acting attorney general will have on the Justice Department's Russia investigation led by Robert Mueller. Democrats on Capitol Hill are strategizing over the next steps. And so are Democrats in New York. Trump's home state will soon get a new attorney general, one who's pledged to keep the heat on the president. From member station WNYC, Fred Mogul reports.

FRED MOGUL, BYLINE: On January 28, 2016, Donald Trump held a veterans fundraiser in Des Moines, rather than attend a Republican candidates debate nearby.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I didn't want to be here. I have to be honest. I wanted to be about five minutes away.

MOGUL: The next day, staffers from the Trump campaign, rather than the Trump Foundation, began disbursing millions of dollars to veterans groups, allegedly with an eye toward benefiting candidate Trump on the eve of the Iowa caucuses. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood says this was illegal.

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BARBARA UNDERWOOD: They used the money of the foundation for a variety of personal and political purposes.

MOGUL: Two years later, the Trump Foundation is in state court. And Underwood will soon pass the baton to the newly elected New York attorney general, Tish James. James has vowed to pursue a variety of cases against Donald Trump. Speaking at a campaign debate this fall, James said that means looking into both his private business activities and his presidential policies.

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TISH JAMES: We need to follow his money. We need to find out where he's laundered money. We need to find out whether or not he's engaged in conspiracy and whether or not he's colluded not only with Putin but also with China, as well.

MOGUL: The Trump Foundation case began under former New York AG Eric Schneiderman. He also launched dozens of other multi-state lawsuits on everything from coal emissions to immigrant rights.

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ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN: I've developed a bit of a reputation since January as a guy who sues Donald Trump and the federal government.

MOGUL: But then last spring, sexual assault charges derailed Schneiderman's political career.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The New York attorney general resigning tonight after accusations of physical violence by four women.

MOGUL: Tish James was already a rising star in New York politics. And she quickly announced she was running for state AG and quickly won support from the state Democratic Party and labor unions. Liz Holtzman, a former congresswoman and Brooklyn district attorney, says James has ambition talent and commitment to social justice that will serve her well as she moves to a much bigger stage.

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LIZ HOLTZMAN: She's an intelligent woman. And she's a committed woman and committed to improving the society around her. And I think she'll do a fine job.

MOGUL: James declined to talk to NPR. The New York AG's office is one of the largest in the country, with more than 700 lawyers. Sean Rankin from the Democratic Attorneys General Association says this office also gets outsized influence from its jurisdiction over one of the world's major financial hubs.

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SEAN RANKIN: That's a power that other offices don't have.

MOGUL: The current New York AG, Barbara Underwood, will stay on as James' top litigator for appeals and for cases where state and federal law intersect. Underwood has argued 20 cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

RANKIN: The fact that she's staying in the New York AG's office is important. She does carry tremendous respect, I think, on both sides of the aisle.

MOGUL: James and Underwood want to change New York's unusual double jeopardy law. It limits the prosecution of state crimes that overlap with federal ones. Underwood says loosening this restriction is important because New York prosecutors may need to be ready to step in if President Trump were to offer pardons to people implicated in the Robert Mueller investigations.

UNDERWOOD: The state's interest in the rule of law and enforcing the law would otherwise go unvindicated.

MOGUL: Earlier this year, Republican legislators in Albany rejected proposed changes to the state's double jeopardy law. But following the fall elections, Democrats will completely take over the legislature in January. And they say they'll tackle this bill again right away so that even if the Mueller case goes away, the president and his associates could face state charges. For NPR News, I'm Fred Mogul in New York.

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