- Associated Press - Monday, March 19, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - In an era when Democratic attorneys general have increasingly taken the lead in opposing Republican President Donald Trump’s agenda, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson says she keeps doing her job the same way regardless of who’s running the federal or state government.

“I get involved in things where I think it’s in Minnesota’s interest to be involved,” Swanson said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I have approached the job of attorney general as being one that enforces the law and stands up for the Constitution regardless of who the governor might be, regardless of who the president might be.”

Several Democratic attorneys general have teamed up to sue the Trump administration on several fronts, whether it’s been to block the president’s travel bans, thwart his efforts to end a program for immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, or dismantle the Obama administration’s health care overhaul. Republican attorneys general often did the same when Barack Obama was president. Swanson has joined in several cases filed by her fellow Democrats, but hasn’t taken a leading role in most.

As examples of recent cases where she has taken an active role, Swanson cited multistate lawsuits to block cuts in federal funds to state-run health plans such as the MinnesotaCare program for the working poor, and to preserve internet neutrality.

Swanson said she’s particularly proud of the $850 million settlement she reached with 3M last month in a lawsuit alleging the manufacturer’s chemicals contaminated groundwater in the eastern Twin Cities metro area. It’s the largest environmental settlement in Minnesota history, and the third-largest natural resource damage settlement in U.S. history. And she said it was close to the figure the state would have asked the jury to award at trial, which she said probably would have been about $1 billion.

While it was widely reported that she was seeking $5 billion in damages, Swanson said that figure came from 3M, not her team, and court filings bear her out.

Swanson passed up a run for governor because of the time demands of the 3M case. History suggests she should coast to a fourth term as attorney general in November; Minnesota hasn’t elected a Republican attorney general since 1966.

Swanson hasn’t said much to suggest her priorities would change in a fourth term. She said she can’t talk in detail about pending investigations. But a common theme in her ongoing plans is that these are still tough economic times for many middle class Americans, and she’s trying to help them.

The pharmaceutical industry will be a continuing target, she said. She’ll continue pursuing a lawsuit against generic drug companies accused of colluding to fix prices and carve up the market, and she’s joined with other attorneys general to investigate the industry’s culpability in the opioid epidemic. She said she’ll also closely watch the loosening of regulations under Trump because she blames the economic crisis of the late 2000s and early 2010s on lax regulation and greed on Wall Street.

“To some extent I see deja vu all over again when it comes to the deregulation movements, and what that means then for the importance to have vigilance at the state level for protecting consumers and patients,” she said.

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