Election 2020

New York Attorney General Hopefuls Promise to Prosecute ICE, Trump

Democratic candidate for New York governor Cynthia Nixon endorses Zephyr Teachout, left, for New York Attorney General with Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in the background on Aug. 8, 2018 (Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA via AP Images)

President Trump has a couple of Democrats to worry about in the New York attorney general’s race: one wants to not only abolish ICE, she wants to prosecute the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Another of the Democrats running to be the state’s next AG is talking about hauling Trump into a New York courtroom.

Trump isn’t the only one worried about who might win the New York Democratic Party’s attorney general primary Sept. 13: establishment Dems are also scared to death that a progressive, Zephyr Teachout, will beat three mainline party candidates.

Remember, it was disgruntled New York Democrats who gave the world Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Like Ocasio-Cortez, Teachout promises to go after ICE.

“As attorney general, I will continue to speak out against ICE. I will prosecute ICE for their criminal acts,” Teachout said. “We have stories of consistent abuse within ICE.”

Ronald Vitiello, the acting director of ICE, went on “Fox & Friends” the following day to explain ICE “was designed in the aftermath of 9/11 to protect us all. They’re out there every day protecting this country.”

But Teachout, a professor at Fordham University, responded with a tweet that told a different story of what ICE is all about.

“We have reports of rape, and people have died in ICE detention because they didn’t get adequate medical care,” Teachout tweeted. “I absolutely will prosecute anyone who breaks the law under my jurisdiction. Including ICE agents.”

However, Letitia “Tish” James, the leading Democratic contender in the attorney general’s race, vows to become Trump’s worst nightmare.

“The president of the United States has to worry about three things: Mueller, Cohen, and Tish James. We’re all closing in on him,” James said.

She assured a voters’ forum audience that the New York Attorney General’s Office does have jurisdiction over Trump because his real estate business and presidential campaign are headquartered in the state. On top of that, many of the activities that special counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating happened in New York.

In June, New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood filed a lawsuit against the Trump Foundation and Trump family — President Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump — alleging more than a decade’s worth of illegal conduct including unlawful coordination with Trump’s presidential campaign, using the foundation to benefit Trump’s business and personal interests, and violating nonprofit foundation rules.

“There are things the New York State attorney general can do to take on the threat of Donald Trump that nobody else can do,” James said.

Although James has talked about prosecuting Trump, she’s been accused of being too close to longtime political ally New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

James admitted Cuomo is a strong personality in Albany, but told WSKG she has an “even stronger personality.”

“I’ve been independent all my life, just by the nature of who I am,” James added. “I’ve been counted out for a very long time, and people have continued to underestimate me, and I continue to overperform.”

But Teachout has a history of not only standing up to Cuomo, she went after his job in 2014. Teachout ran against Cuomo in the New York Democratic gubernatorial primary and received close to a third of the vote. The New York Times called her campaign “the strongest challenge to an incumbent governor since primaries for the office were established in New York in 1970.”

But Cuomo would be small potatoes for New York Attorney General Teachout. Her real target is Trump and it has been since the day he was elected, according to New York Times columnist Ginia Bellafante.

“From the moment that Mr. Trump became president, Ms. Teachout has been talking about the possibility — in her mind, the absolute certainty — that his financial involvements with foreign state-controlled companies are in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which prohibits public servants from accepting anything of significant value from a foreign power without the clear consent of Congress,” Bellafante wrote. “Seventy-two hours after Mr. Trump became president, she and other lawyers filed a federal lawsuit against him on these grounds.”

But if Teachout is to make that dream come true, she has to first win the election. Second place won’t be good enough. And that isn’t going to be easy.

James came in first in the four-candidate New York Democratic Attorney General primary race Siena College poll released July 31. She had 25 percent of the vote from those polled. U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) had 16 percent, Teachout polled at 13 percent, and Leecia Eve, a former Cuomo aide, came in at 4 percent.

“Undecided” beat everyone in the New York AG Democratic primary pack. The poll showed 42 percent of likely Democratic voters had yet to make up their minds about who they’d vote for in the September primary.

“It’s not surprising that the race is wide open since none of the candidates are particularly well known to voters,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg.

“Over the next six weeks, all of these candidates have a lot of work to do to become known to Democratic primary voters and then get them to the polls in what is likely to be — sadly — a low turnout election,” Greenberg added.

William F. B. O’Reilly, a GOP consultant, warned Democrats the day before that poll came out that it was far too early to give the race to any of the candidates because the media’s love can burn so hot.

“If news coverage is a measure, Teachout runs rings around the field. But watch for the telltale sign of her gaining real traction: third-party attack ads against her beginning in August,” O’Reilly wrote in AM NewYork. “They’ll be like water on a fire that might be burning out of control.”