AG Bob Ferguson talks presidential transition and life after Trump

Washington state's chief legal officer says lots of lawyers are working hard to make sure Biden will be president in January.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson describes himself as a glass-half-full kind of guy. So his opinions on the issues of the day — from the election to the future of America — mostly have a hopeful tilt.

And when you combine that optimism with Ferguson’s success at winning lawsuits against the Trump administration, it’s easy to believe him when he says Americans don’t have to worry about a peaceful transfer of power between presidential administrations in January.

“I do not for one minute underestimate Donald Trump and his desperation to hold onto power,” Ferguson said Wednesday during a live Crosscut Northwest Newsmaker event. “That said, I do not think he will be successful doing that. He may do a lot of damage on his way out the door. … At the end of the day, come January, he will walk out of the Oval Office and Joe Biden will walk in.”

Ferguson noted that before Wednesday’s virtual event, hosted by Monica Guzman, he was on a call with Democratic attorneys general across the nation discussing the aftermath of the presidential election and what else they needed to do to ensure the will of voters is followed.

Those same attorneys general spent months preparing for the election and the possible outcomes and legal challenges. Their work included drafting many motions and launching a successful fight led by Ferguson’s Washington state team to force the U.S. Postal Service to go back to processing mail in the way it had before the Trump administration started removing sorting equipment in post offices around the country.

Although the difficult post-election work is not finished, Ferguson centered his optimism on the way the courts have consistently rejected the president’s arguments concerning election fraud. “His legal challenges have no merit,” he said. And in a refrain he emphasized several times during the wide-ranging discussion, he stated his belief that judges are more beholden to the law and the Constitution than they are to who appointed them and which political party they come from.

“Many of the cases we have won have been in front of Trump appointees,” Ferguson noted of the 35 out of 37 lawsuits against the Trump administration his office has won. That said, judicial appointments are among the biggest power a president has, and Ferguson has been deeply concerned about the way recent nominations for federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court have been handled. “Elections have consequences,” he added.

Even with the most conservative Supreme Court in generations, Ferguson said, Americans should not be pessimistic that the justices won’t make the right decisions, following the law and the Constitution. But that doesn’t mean Washington’s attorney general isn’t worried at all about the future.

Among his ongoing concerns are how the courts will decide on cases that will impact the Affordable Care Act, reproductive rights and the environment.

Ferguson noted that the hundreds of attorneys in his office mostly work on issues more directly related to the people of Washington, such as defending state laws, punishing those who disobey state election laws and ensuring consumer protections. His office receives about 20,000 consumer complaints a year, he said.

The attorney general’s office wants to hear from the public if they witness or experience price gouging related to COVID-19. The “See It, Snap It, Send It” project encouraging people to send evidence to Ferguson’s office has already received 400 complaints since the beginning of March.

Ferguson said his priorities for the next four years include fighting the opioid epidemic by taking on drug manufacturers, doing what he can to help people impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and working to protect Washington’s environment. He’s optimistic the Biden administration will take some positive next steps toward giving DACA recipients or Dreamers, a path toward citizenship.These young people were brought to this country as children.

Two things Ferguson said he won’t be focusing on over the next four years are running for governor — “I’m someone who just focuses on what’s right in front of me” — or taking a role in the Biden administration. “I’m not going anywhere,” said the fourth generation Washingtonian with young children.

About the Authors & Contributors