New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s remarkable fall from grace has left an unexpected opening in the state’s top law enforcement position, a perch the once rising Democratic star used to fiercely oppose President Donald Trump.
Schneiderman filed suit against Trump University for defrauding students and won a $25 million settlement after the 2016 election. He brought together more than a dozen other attorneys general to mount legal challenges to the Trump administration’s travel ban on Muslim countries. Another Schneiderman suit sought to stop the administration from eliminating DACA, the Obama-era program that protected young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children from being deported.
Schneiderman was also known as a vocal proponent of the #MeToo movement and brought legal action in New York against film producer Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of sexually assaulting women.
But he stepped down Monday hours after The New Yorker published a stunning story detailing four women’s allegations that Schneiderman violently assaulted them. Schneiderman “strongly contests” the allegations.
New York Solicitor General Barbara Underwood has been named acting attorney general, but a number of potential candidates to replace Schneiderman have emerged since his resignation.
“This is going to be something that people come to with a lot of ambition and a lot of energy,” said CNN political commentator Errol Louis, who wrote that the next attorney general will likely build a following among national Democrats “as an energetic opponent of corporate misbehavior and of conservative White House policies.”
“They’re not going to look the other way if they think there’s something that’s going to sort of move them up to that next level,” he added. “And nothing sells right now in Democratic politics in New York like attacking Donald Trump.”
These are some of the potential candidates for the state’s next attorney general:
James is the city’s public advocate, who serves as a watchdog over city agencies and services. She was also a city council member, an assistant attorney general and a public defender.
George Arzt, a political consultant and former press secretary to the late Mayor Ed Koch, said James is considered a front-runner.
“She is the best known woman and this is the time for a woman because of the circumstances surrounding the demise of Eric,” he said.
“This is the height of the ‘Me too’ movement. Also we’ve never had a woman in the top three spots in the state.”
Bharara, the well-known former US attorney of New York’s Southern District, was fired by Trump in March 2017. A onetime chief counsel to Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, Bharara was one of the highest profile federal law enforcement officers in the country. He also had a reputation as an aggressive prosecutor of public corruption and Wall Street crime.
Arzt called Bharara is a long shot, particularly because of the fear he instills in politicians.
“No one wants a Preet Bharara,” he said. “They’d be frightened to death to have him there. Everyone would be afraid of being indicted. For elected officials, it would be like a reign of terror.”
Asked Tuesday about the position, Bharara said: “It’s flattering that other people have put the thought out there. I’m not putting it out there. And I’m happy doing what I’m doing right now.”
Bharara is active on Twitter. He also has a weekly podcast called “Stay Tuned with Preet.”
Teachout teaches at Fordham Law School. She ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination as governor of New York in 2014, and for US Congress in 2016. She’s a former death penalty defense lawyer at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in North Carolina.
Louis wrote for CNN opinion that both James and Teachout “have the advantage of being women at a time when the #MeToo movement has spotlighted the downside of male-dominated environments, like the state capital.”
Gianaris is a New York state senator elected in 2010 after 10 years in the State Assembly.
He holds a law degree from Harvard and was a litigator in private practice for several years, according to his online bio.
Rice was elected to Congress in 2014. She represents parts of Nassau County in suburban Long Island.
In 2005, she became the first woman elected district attorney in Long Island, where she was prosecutor from 2006 to 2014. She also served as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn and as a federal prosecutor in Philadelphia.
CNN’s Elizabeth Joseph contributed to this story.