Who Is Bob Ferguson, The Washington Attorney General Behind The Suit Against The Trump Travel Ban? Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson's lawsuit has led to a temporary halt of the Trump administration's ban on travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries.
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The Attorney General Behind The Resistance To Trump's Travel Ban

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The Attorney General Behind The Resistance To Trump's Travel Ban

The Attorney General Behind The Resistance To Trump's Travel Ban

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

We're going to talk now about the man who first brought this lawsuit. Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson has already become one of the most effective legal adversaries of Trump policy. Austin Jenkins of the Northwest News Network has this profile of Ferguson.

AUSTIN JENKINS, BYLINE: Outside the federal courthouse in downtown Seattle last Friday afternoon, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson suddenly found himself in the national spotlight. Federal Judge James Robart had just imposed an immediate nationwide halt to President Trump's executive order on immigration and refugees. As camera shutters clicked, Ferguson played David to Trump's Goliath.

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BOB FERGUSON: The law's a powerful thing. It has the ability to hold everybody accountable to it, and that includes the president of the United States.

JENKINS: In a matter of hours, Ferguson would go from unknown state attorney general in the far corner of the country to making national headlines. He later told member station KUOW in Seattle, it was an unusual experience.

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FERGUSON: I mean CNN was - called my 88-year-old mother in Seattle, trying to track me down so they could talk to me on Friday night, for example.

JENKINS: Ferguson and his team had moved swiftly after Trump issued his executive order. Within 72 hours, they'd drafted a lawsuit and rounded up declarations of support from Washington-based companies like Amazon and Expedia. Ferguson compared the pace to his days years ago as a professional chess player in Europe playing under the clock.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

FERGUSON: This is what - it reminds me of that - that we do have to move quickly. We don't have the usual time to take the time to do the research that you normally would, but that's OK. When constitutional rights are involved, you have to be willing to move quickly and play in that time trouble as a lawyer. That's what our team is doing.

JENKINS: Ferguson might seem an unlikely foil to the new president. At 51, he still has a boyish face framed by glasses and a mop of dark hair. But longtime Democratic political consultant Christian Sinderman, who has worked for Ferguson, says in many ways, he's been preparing for years for a moment like this.

CHRISTIAN SINDERMAN: You know, there's a Harry-Potter-like quality of Bob Ferguson - you know, the glasses, the serious intent and the sense of almost destiny in standing up for what's right and for the little guy.

JENKINS: This isn't the first time Ferguson has gone to court against the federal government. He sued the Obama administration over cleanup and worker safety at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington. Even before this case, Ferguson was viewed as a likely candidate for governor in 2020. Washington Republicans like State Representative Matt Manweller are watching Ferguson's fight against Trump through that lens.

MATT MANWELLER: You have to do something to stand out in a crowd, and Bob Ferguson has played a big card in that game. And now he has definitely moved up in the pecking order as a viable candidate in 2020.

JENKINS: On Monday, Ferguson was at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to greet the first person turned away after the Trump travel ban took effect. He got cheers and applause when Washington Governor Jay Inslee called him to the mike and riffed off of Trump's description of the judge in the case.

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JAY INSLEE: And now I want to introduce a guy who's shown really bold leadership for the whole country, our so-called Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

(CHEERING, APPLAUSE)

JENKINS: Ferguson says he's prepared to take this legal fight to the U.S. Supreme Court. It's also clear his office is watching to see what other executive orders the Trump administration may come up with in the future. For NPR News, I'm Austin Jenkins in Olympia, Wash.

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