As police terror continues to claim the lives of Black Minnesotans, Biden must use all the tools at his disposal to root out police misconduct and deliver on his campaign promises of racial justice. U.S. Attorneys, the local face of the Department of Justice, will be an important institution to leverage. But the remains of Trump’s influence on these offices through acting officials and assistants could thwart the administration’s goals.
W. Anders Folk, the current acting head of Minnesota’s U.S. Attorney’s office, was selected by Trump appointee Erica McDonald in 2018 to serve as her First Assistant U.S. Attorney (i.e., the office’s #2 person). Folk had just spent the last 7 years at the private law firm Stinson Leonard Street LLP, and before that, spent 3 years at Minnesota’s U.S. Attorney’s office before returning during Trump’s presidency. In other words, while Folk was an experienced prosecutor when he became First Assistant, he was handpicked by a Trump appointee from BigLaw and is thus a de facto Trump political appointee.
We find it doubtful that a BigLaw revolver hired by a Trump appointee is equipped to deliver on calls for racial justice and criminal justice reform. A letter spearheaded by the Revolving Door Project and signed by over 30 progressive organizations underscores the need for U.S. Attorney offices prioritize new sources of talent, like Public Defenders and other public interest lawyers, instead of the same tough-on-crime prosecutors and corporate law attorneys that usually fill these roles. Grassroots calls for cultural and institutional transformation of our criminal justice system must be met with personnel who are ready for the job.
Minnesota, a state rocked by police terror, deserves a U.S. Attorney office that will be bold enough to take on police misconduct and deliver on calls for racial justice.