JOHNSTON — Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller says he has not politicized the state Attorney General’s Office and that his decision to have Iowa join lawsuits against President Donald Trump’s administration is part of governmental checks and balances.
Miller defended his record Friday during taping for this weekend’s episode of “Iowa Press” on Iowa Public Television.
Iowa Republican lawmakers have approved a bill that would require the attorney general, when joining an out-of-state lawsuit, first obtain the permission of the governor, Executive Council or Legislature.
Republican lawmakers introduced the proposal after being frustrated by Miller having Iowa join a number of multistate lawsuits against Trump administration policies, such as opposing the separation of migrant parents from their children when apprehended at the border, 3D gun printing regulations, and requiring a citizenship question on the federal census.
Asked if he has politicized the Attorney General’s Office, Miller said, “No, absolutely not. I would never do that. I take this office very seriously.
“I take ... a professionalism approach to the law. Nothing is more important to the law than litigation,” he said. “I brought those lawsuits only when I thought the law and the interest of Iowans indicated that I should do that.”
Miller said it is not uncommon for Democratic state attorneys general to enter legal challenges to Republican administrations, and vice versa.
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“That is part of our checks and balances, that when there is an administration and there is overreach, for a variety of reasons, it is most likely people of the opposite party (to challenge). And there’s nothing wrong with that,” Miller said. “And after all, what we’re talking about is not us deciding anything. The judge decides.”
Gov. Kim Reynolds must decide whether to sign the provision into law or reject it.
She declined this week to offer her plans, instead saying only that she will review the proposal once it reaches her desk.
Miller said, according to his research, the proposal, if it becomes law, would be the only such limitation on a state attorney general in the country.
Miller said he will lobby Reynolds to veto the bill and that he thinks he can get a few other state attorneys general — including some Republicans — to support his effort.
He declined to say whether if he would challenge the proposal if Reynolds signs it into law.
“That’s premature. We would take a look at that later,” Miller said. “Our major thrust would be to try and convince the governor to veto it.”
Miller, 74, is the longest-serving state attorney general in U.S. history, now in his 10th four-year term as Iowa’s top lawyer.
He has said this will be his last term, but on Friday offered a slight caveat.
“I said that last time and changed my mind, but I think it’s likely that this will be my last term,” he said.
If this is Miller’s final term, he said he hopes Iowans remember his tenure for some of the lawsuits that resulted in victories that helped Iowans — against tobacco companies, for example — and that he was professional in his service.
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“Those were very big cases with enormous consequences for Iowa ... it embodies the principle of using the law to serve the interest of ordinary Iowans,” Miller said. “I’ve always believed that you hire good lawyers with a lot of integrity, and you follow the law and you do the right thing.
“I hope that package will be my legacy.”
“Iowa Press” appears on Iowa Public Television on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at noon, and is available online at IPTV.org.
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