Letitia James Talks Investigating Trump, Suing Big Tech and NRA

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New York Attorney General Letitia James, 62, is the first woman and Black person elected to her office. She’s filed or joined lawsuits against the Trump administration on issues such as immigrants’ rights and housing discrimination. She’s also leading a group of states in an antitrust suit to force Facebook Inc. to unwind its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, which she claims were part of an illegal effort by Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to kill his competition—and suing Alphabet Inc.’s Google as well.

Now, as President Biden takes office, James is in the midst of an investigation into whether Trump’s real estate business falsely reported property values to get loans or tax benefits, as well as a fraud suit against the National Rifle Association.

What is your ideal resolution to the Facebook lawsuit?

We want Facebook to stop its anticompetitive conduct and undo the harm it’s caused. Facebook’s monopoly hurts consumers, it hurts the marketplace, it hurts advertisers. And Facebook users have nowhere else to go. Breaking up Facebook is one of the many remedies that are on the table, just as back in 2001 they focused on Microsoft and broke up AT&T back in the ’80s.

Same question for Google.

Google is a sprawling monopolist, with tentacles in almost every part of our everyday online activities—search, search advertising, restrictive contracts, placement. They discriminate against companies like Yelp and TripAdvisor, and they starve general search. These companies are not too big to fail or to break up.

If Trump were criminally charged, it would create a firestorm. Is that a factor for you? Should it be?

The Biden administration wants to look forward, and I applaud that. My office is investigating potential civil claims. In the event we uncover any criminal activity, it will change the posture of our case. I took a solemn oath to follow the law.

What about backlash to the NRA suit?

If you read the complaint, you see it has nothing to do with the Second Amendment. It’s all about our role in regulating not-for-profits in the state of New York. Wayne LaPierre and other executives diverted much-needed funds for their own personal use. I don’t know what going on safaris in Africa has to do with the Second Amendment.

Are you glad 2020 is over?

I’m glad 2020 is behind us. It’s been a year of several pandemics—Covid, racial reckoning, and economic downturn. What we need, now more than ever, is to heal the breach in our nation, restore our economy, and do it in a way that reminds Americans about the exceptionalism of our country.

Do you have any plans to run for governor?

[Laughs.]

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
 
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