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California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra to set up a Washington office as he prepares to fight Trump administration

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra said Wednesday that he is setting up an office in Washington, an unusual move for a state attorney general. Opening the new office is reflective of the fact that much of his attention will be devoted to Trump administration actions that might conflict with California policies, Becerra said.

Becerra, who has already filed three amicus briefings in lawsuits challenging Trump immigration orders, said the office will help him collaborate with members of California's congressional delegation on policies that affect the Golden State.

“Decisions that are going to affect California are going to be played out in Washington, D.C., and I think it’s important for my office to have a presence here,” Becerra said.

The state attorney general said he has hired Alejandro Perez, a former legislative affairs director for the Obama administration, to run the Washington office. It will be located in existing office space maintained by the California governor's office.

Becerra's predecessor, Kamala Harris, did not operate an office of the state Department of Justice in the nation's capital, officials said.

Meanwhile, in their first face-to-face meeting since he became California’s attorney general, Becerra has told U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions that the federal immigration crackdown can hurt public safety by making the immigrant community less willing to report crimes and cooperate with law enforcement.

Becerra said Wednesday that he was one of nearly 50 state and territorial attorneys general who met the day before with Sessions in a hotel ballroom during the winter meeting of the National Assn. of Attorneys General in Washington.

“I mentioned that in order for us to do our public safety [work], that you can’t really do it from Washington, D.C., and to continue to go after the folks who are committing crimes -- you’ve got to give people in the community a sense that law enforcement, locally or federally, is there to work with them,” Becerra said.

“I asked him if he would consider the fact that when people are panicked and are not willing to approach any law enforcement because of what they are hearing about the immigration actions that it makes it more difficult to protect public safety for everyone,” Becerra added.

Sessions responded that he has heard that argument before and that federal law enforcement does need to be careful not to undermine local law enforcement, Becerra recalled.

“He went on to say that they are going to do what they need to do to try to enforce immigration law to get people off the streets,” Becerra said of Sessions.

Becerra was also part of a large delegation of state attorneys general who went to the White House on Tuesday to meet briefly with President Trump, but said he and the president did not exchange words.

The attorney general noted he did not participate in a photograph of the attorneys general with the president, but declined to say why.

Updated 4:24 pm: This post was updated with information that the new attorney general's office will be located in building space already maintained by the governor in Washington, D.C.

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