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California Legislature to pay Eric Holder to challenge Trump administration

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Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, joined other elected officials in vowing to stand up to president-elect Donald Trump on immigration on Dec 5, 2016 in Sacramento.
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Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, joined other elected officials in vowing to stand up to president-elect Donald Trump on immigration on Dec 5, 2016 in Sacramento.

The California Legislature has hired the firm of former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder as outside counsel to assist legal challenges posed by conflicts with the Trump Administration, Democratic leaders announced Wednesday.

Holder’s firm, Covington & Burling, will advise the Legislature “in our efforts to resist any attempts to roll back the progress California has made,” said Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon in a joint statement on Wednesday.

The Assembly and Senate have agreed to split the firm’s $25,000-a-month fee for an initial three-month period. “Given the urgency, intensity and complexity of the work, these terms are eminently fair and consistent with industry standards,” Assembly spokesman Kevin Liao said in a statement. “The initial agreement extends for a minimum of three months, at which time the parties will mutually and more specifically assess the evolving federal landscape and determine what overall scope of work will be required to meet California’s challenges going forward.”

The hiring of Holder comes a day after Gov. Jerry Brown formally entered his nomination of Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles to succeed incoming U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris as California attorney general.

Brown has said he believes Becerra will help him continue to aggressively combat climate change.

Becerra himself has already challenged the Trump administration to “come at us ... if you want to take on a forward-leaning state that is prepared to defend its rights and interests” on everything from environmental laws to health care to protecting undocumented immigrants.

While Becerra was at the center of many federal immigration and health care policy debates, the legislative leaders characterized bringing in Holder and outside counsel as supplementing the state’s legal firepower.

“This is a critical moment in the history of our nation,” Rendon and de León said. “We have an obligation to defend the people who elected us and the policies and diversity that make California an example of what truly makes a nation great.

“With the upcoming change in administrations, we expect that there will be extraordinary challenges for California in the uncertain times ahead. The Legislature will work with the Governor and our next Attorney General to protect California’s economy and our sensible policies on climate change, health care, civil rights and immigration.”

State legislative leaders have struck a defiant tone against President-Elect Donald Trump. The day after the election Rendon and de León issued a statement praising California, which voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton, and pledging to protect the state from Trump policies that may hurt the economy or infringe on the rights of people living in the state.

“I am honored that the Legislature chose Covington to serve as its legal advisor as it considers how to respond to potential changes in federal law that could impact California’s residents and policy priorities,” Holder said in a statement, “I am confident that our expertise across a wide array of federal legal and regulatory issues will be a great resource to the legislature.”

De León has connections to Covington that extend beyond Holder.

Dan Shallman, a partner in the firm’s Los Angeles office, is the brother of John Shallman, whose Southern California-based political consulting and advertising agency serves as the longtime consulting house for de León and several other California elected officials. It is paid a $10,000 a month retainer by the California Democratic Party. This summer, Shallman Communications hired de León’s daughter, Lluvia de Milagros Carrasco, a recent graduate of Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, to work as an account coordinator.

Christopher Cadelago of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna

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