Our View: Ellison proving too political
While campaigning last fall to be Minnesota's next attorney general, Keith Ellison was accused of only wanting the position so he could take on President Donald Trump. The former congressman and deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee was too political to effectively serve as the state's top prosecutor, opponents charged.
In the first two months of his tenure, Ellison has done little to quiet the critics.
Rather, joining with Democrats from other states, Ellison has won two injunctions and filed three other lawsuits against the Trump administration, according to a memo his office prepared for the News Tribune Editorial Board. The legal actions — related to reproductive rights, Trump's push for a border wall, and other issues — were listed at the top of a three-page detailing of "accomplishments" during Ellison's first 65 days in office.
Separating politics from the work he was elected to do certainly does seem to be the challenge many suspected it would be for Ellison.
He, of course, sees things differently.
"I've said this to you, and only time will be able to show that I really mean this, I didn't leave a safe seat in Congress just to fight with the Trump administration. I'm not going to sit up here and tell you that I'm not a liberal. I am. ... But I didn't leave Congress to come here to fight with Trump," Ellison told editorial board members late last week.
"There will be times when I have to confront the federal government. But ... if it was a Democrat (as) president, I'd do the same things. I'd go after him, too," Ellison also said. "The truth is I did publicly criticize (President Barack) Obama, and I think Obama was a great president. But I questioned him on his trade policy, and I questioned him on his immigration policy — publicly. He appreciated it. I know because he told me so."
The challenges of Ellison and his office related to reproductive rights weren't about politics, he insisted: "I believe in the right to, some people call it the right to choose. ... It has nothing to do with who's in office. There's a difference between a value system and politics."
Neither was the suit in resistance to Trump's push for a border wall: "I didn't really want to (join that suit), but we need our money for the National Guard, drug interdiction, and military construction. ... (Trump) said he was going to take that money and send it down to Arizona or Texas or wherever to build his wall. We just had a massive blizzard (with) whiteout conditions in southern Minnesota where our National Guard was literally saving people. Is that the money (Trump) is trying to take from us? Because if it is, I've got a problem with that."
"Am I going to be active politically?" Ellison asked. "Yes, but not through my official office, right? Nobody gets to do politics on my official office. And that's a promise I feel very comfortable keeping. And nobody will ever feel political pressure to help me get re-elected. But we are going to work hard and show our value through the work that we do."
Those were Ellison's words. His actions already, during just his first two months in office, are suggesting a very different reality and priorities, however.