AG SUES THE PRESIDENT

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood goes head to head with President Donald Trump. Tonight, she opens up about criminal justice, reforming the state and suing the Donald J. Trump Foundation.

Aired on August 6, 2018. 

TRANSCRIPT

> BARBARA UNDERWOOD HAS TAKEN CHARGE AFTER SHE WAS SWORN IN AS NEW YORK'S NEW ATTORNEY GENERAL, REPLACING ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN WHO RESIGNED AMID ACCUSATIONS OF SEXUAL ABUSE.

NOW MAKING HEADLINES AGAIN WITH A LAWSUIT AGAINST THE PRESIDENT.

IN AN INTERVIEW WITH PUBLIC RADIO'S KAREN DeWITT FOR 'NEW YORK NOW,' SHE'S TACKLING HER NEW ROLL AS CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER FOR THE STATE OF NEW YORK.

NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL BARBARA UNDERWOOD.

THANKS FOR JOINING US ON 'NEW YORK NOW.'

HAPPY TO BE HERE.

YOU'VE BEEN ON THE JOB FOR HOW LONG NOW?

HAS IT BEEN THREE MONTHS, A YEAR?

IT'S BEEN ABOUT SEVEN WEEKS I THINK.

WE'RE LAUGHING BECAUSE IT JUST SEEMS LIKE A LOT HAS HAPPENED IN THAT TIME SINCE ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN ABRUPTLY RESIGNED.

HOW HAS THE OFFICE BEEN COPING IN THE DAYS SINCE HE WAS FORCED TO RESEEN?

VERY WELL.

I THINK FROM THE MOMENT I BECAME ATTORNEY GENERAL, IT WAS MY PRINCIPLE MISSION TO KEEP EVERYBODY LOOKING FORWARD AND PUT THAT BEHIND US.

WE HAD TOO MUCH WORK TO DO TO BE SLOWED DOWN BY ANY OF THAT.

I THINK I'VE BEEN SUCCESSFUL OR WE'VE BEEN SUCCESSFUL.

I THINK EVERYBODY IS FEELING ENERGIZED BY THE IMPORTANCE OF OUR WORK IN THIS MOMENT AND WE CAN'T WASTE TIME.

YOU NEVER EXPECTED TO BE TAKING OVER FOR THIS ATTORNEY GENERAL, RIGHT?

I NEVER EXPECTED TO BE ATTORNEY GENERAL.

I HAVEN'T CONDUCTED MY LIFE IN A WAY THAT WOULD LEAD TO ELECTED OFFICE.

I DO FEEL VERY WELL PREPARED FOR THIS JOB.

YOU'VE CERTAINLY BEEN CONTINUING THE HOPE OF YOUR PREDECESSOR AND FOCUSING ON ISSUES GIVING YOU NATIONAL ATTENTION INCLUDING SUING THE TRUMP FOUNDATION.

CAN YOU EXPLAIN A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT.

YOU'RE SAYING THE WHOLE FOUNDATION WAS A SHAM.

WHAT IS IT THAT YOU'RE ACCUSING PRESIDENT TRUMP AND HIS ASSOCIATES OF?

THIS FOUNDATION USED ITS ASSETS TO POTENTIALLY SETTLE LEGAL OBLIGATIONS OF VARIOUS TRUMP BUSINESSES, HOTELS, THE GOLF COURSE AND TO FUND POLITICAL ACTIVITIES AND FUND THE CAMPAIGN OF DONALD TRUMP AND ALSO THE CAMPAIGN OF OTHER PEOPLE.

THESE ARE NOT APPROPRIATE USES OF A CHARITABLE FOUNDATION'S MONEY.

YOU GAINED INSTANT NATIONAL ATTENTION FOR THAT.

I KNOW THE OTHER ONE IS A LAWSUIT OVER THE FORCED SPARATION OF IMMIGRANT CHILDREN FROM THEIR PARENTS.

YOU'RE WITH SEVERAL OTHER STATE ATTORNEYS GENERAL ON THAT.

A SAN DIEGO JUDGE RULED THAT IN 30 DAYS THEY'D HAVE TO REUNIFY THE CHILDREN AND PARENTS.

I DON'T KNOW HOW THEY'LL ENFORCE THAT.

ARE YOU STILL PURSUING IT?

WE'RE STILL PURSUING IT.

THE EXISTENCE OF PARALLEL LAWSUITS SEEKING SIMILAR RESULTS IS NOT UNCOMMON.

THE SAN DIEGO JUDGE'S ORDER HASN'T BEEN IMPLEMENTED.

IT WILL BE LITIGATED.

WE'RE IN TOUCH WITH THE PEOPLE IN THAT CASE AND RECORD IT AS COMPETITIVE.

WE'RE ALL TRYING TO SOLVE A TERRIBLE PROBLEM OR GET THE COURTS TO SOLVE --

DO YOU THINK IT'S POSSIBLE TO ENFORCE WHAT THE SHAIG JUDGE HAS RULED?

I THINK THE GOVERNMENT IS OBLIGED TO TRY.

I ALSO NOTICE THAT YOUR LAWSUIT SAYS THERE'S 321 SEPARATED CHILDREN IN NEW YORK STATE.

GOVERNOR CUOMO SAYS HE THINKS THE NUMBER IS CLOSER TO 700.

AT ONE POINT HE SAID IT MIGHT BE 1,200.

WHAT IS THE DISCREPANCY?

DOES ANYBODY KNOW THE EXACT NUMBER?

IT'S HARD TO HAVE EXACT NUMBERS FOR THIS REASON.

THERE ARE NUMBERS FOR THE PLACEMENT OF UNACCOMPANIED MINORS.

THERE ARE UNACCOMPANIED MINORS WHO ARRIVE UNACCOMPANIED AND THEN THERE ARE THESE CHILDREN WHO ARRIVE WITH THEIR PARENTS AND ARE SEPARATED FROM THEIR PARENTS AND ARE TRANSFORMED INTO UNACCOMPANIED MINORS.

MY UNDERSTANDING IS THAT THE STATISTICS AREN'T KEPT SEPARATELY ON THEM.

SO ESTIMATES ARE BEING MADE.

DO YOU FIND IT DISTURBING THAT WE DON'T KNOW HOW MANY OF THESE CHILDREN ARE HERE?

IT IS RELATED TO THE BASIC PROBLEMS THAT, WHEN YOU SEPARATE CHILDREN FROM MINORS -- CHILDREN FROM THEIR PARENTS, YOU ARE INFLICTING TERRIBLE HARM ON THEM, THAT YOU OUGHT TO BE TAKING MEASURES THAT WILL MAKE IT POSSIBLE TO REUNITE THEM AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE AND RECORDKEEPING IS PART OF THAT.

I DON'T KNOW WHAT RECORDS THEY HAVE.

WE DON'T HAVE THAT INFORMATION IN ANY FIRM FORM.

IT DOESN'T REALLY MATTER, DOES IT, WHETHER IT'S 300 OR 1,200.

IT'S ENOUGH CHILDREN -- ONE WOULD BE TERRIBLE, SEVERAL HUNDRED IS -- AND THAT'S JUST NEW YORK.

OUR PARTNER STATES EACH HAVE THEIR HUNDREDS OF CHILDREN.

THE FACT THAT THE STATE DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT IT, THE GOVERNOR DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT IT, THE NEW YORK CITY MAYOR DIDN'T.

THAT'S A DISTURBING THING TO DISCOVER.

IT IS INDEED AND THE WORLD REALLY HAS RISEN UP IN OUTRAGE.

IT'S REALLY REMARKABLE.

IT SEEMS TO CROSS POLITICAL LINES, ALL OTHER KINDS OF LINES.

WE WILL PRESS ON WITH THE CHASE.

FOR THE REST OF YOUR TERM, PROBABLY MORE EXCITING THINGS FROM YOU IN THE COMING WEEKS AND MONTHS.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR JOINING US.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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