Josh Shapiro is busier than ever. He just won reelection as Attorney General of Pennsylvania, is deeply involved in defending the state against the Trump administration’s efforts to overturn the election results, and he continues to help groups such as Women for a Healthy Environment by participating in their virtual event last night.
He took the time to talk to NEXTpittsburgh about the election, the grand jury report revealing the state’s failure to protect its citizens during the fracking boom, and other issues.
How do you think the election system performed in Pennsylvania? Was there any evidence of fraud?
I thought it was a smooth and safe election. Notwithstanding the relentless attacks from President Trump and his enablers to try to sow doubt in the process leading up to the election, a record number of people came out to vote. In the aftermath, there was no violence, there is no evidence of any type of widespread voter fraud. And the will of the people of Pennsylvania, in every race, will be respected.
What’s the current status of the Trump administration’s lawsuits in Pennsylvania? Are any of them credible?
No. They have lost every lawsuit that’s been filed leading up to the election, and since Election Day. The president has tweeted about fraud and has made statements about fraud. He can tweet and say whatever he wants. But we deal with facts and evidence in the court of law. And he has produced none. In fact, his own attorneys, when questioned by a judge recently in Southeastern Pennsylvania, acknowledged that there’s no voter fraud. And there’s no evidence of it.
Let me be very clear about something: they have lost in court every single time. And they have failed to disrupt the will of the people. I will continue to defend people’s right to vote and have their voice be heard and counted. The final thing I’ll say is that I take voter fraud very seriously. I’ve prosecuted people for voter fraud. But in order to prosecute someone for voter fraud, you need evidence of voter fraud. Not just press statements or tweets about it. I think the President, his lawyers and his enablers are acting recklessly and the judges seem to be on to it. That’s why they’ve either dealt them losses in the cases or dismissed the cases outright.
How do you view the president’s refusal to accept the election results?
I view it as unfortunate. It will certainly be another tarnish on his resume and legacy. But it really makes no difference. He’ll be leaving office on January 20th because Joe Biden received the requisite number of electoral college votes, and that will be the end of the Trump presidency. He has the opportunity to shape the way he chooses to exit, but no matter how he chooses, the bottom line is he will be leaving on January 20th.
What do you consider your most important accomplishments as Attorney General?
I’d have to say, first and foremost, exposing the corruption in the Roman Catholic Church. That led to hundreds of predator priests abusing thousands of children in a conspiracy and cover-up that went from the Pennsylvania diocese all the way to the Vatican. That work we did not only gave survivors their voice back, and shared their truth, but led to a global reckoning — where the Pope acknowledged the truth of what we uncovered. Where the 22 state attorneys general launched investigations modeled after ours. And where the Pope convened a global summit to deal with these issues, of child sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church. I’m very proud of my team and our office for that work.
To name another, the work we did to finally resolve what had really become a crisis between Highmark and UPMC. It was literally days away from leaving two million Western Pennsylvanians without access to their doctors and their hospitals and their preferred coverage. I think three governors, five or six attorney generals, tried to resolve that over a decade, and we finally resolved it.
I think the work that we’ve done over the past four years to defend people’s rights, no matter what they look like, where they come from, who they love or who they pray to, or who they vote for. That’s been an essential theme in the work that we’ve done. I’m very proud of the many cases that we’ve brought and won to defend people’s rights, from women’s reproductive rights to LGBTQ rights, to protecting our planet and our state constitutional right to clean air and clean water.
How many times have you sued the Trump administration? How many of those have been victories?
It’s about two dozen. (We’ve won) nearly every single one. One has been remanded. I’d consider that one still pending. We haven’t lost.
Can the fracking industry be regulated in Pennsylvania to protect citizens’ health? Why is this so difficult?
We are in the midst of an ongoing massive investigation of the fracking industry here in Pennsylvania. I can’t comment on what will come in the future, but I can tell you that through the criminal charges that we’ve already brought against multiple fracking companies — some of which they’ve already plead to — and the grand jury report which made recommendations to change the laws here in Pennsylvania to help better protect our communities.
I believe this is an important issue to focus on, and I will. Our state Constitution guarantees, under Article 1, Section 27, Pennsylvanians the right to clean air and pure water. I take that constitutional right very seriously. If anyone undermines that constitutional right, whether a fracking company or someone else, we’re going to hold them accountable.
Your teenage son went viral by making an unexpected cameo during one of your interviews.
I didn’t realize he was over my shoulder. When I completed the interview, I saw him kind of scurry out from across the room. And I wondered why he was there. I jumped on another interview, and it wasn’t until after I completed that one that he had a bit of a viral moment.
He (Jonah) took it in stride and is an amazing kid. I thought it was really funny.
These are such dark and difficult times. Is there anything that gives you hope right now?
A lot gives me hope. The fact that a record number of people came out and were engaged in our democracy, to pick not just the next President, but the next Attorney General, congressmen, state representative. It showed that people still do care about civic life and our politics. Now it’s up to the people who are elected to govern, to listen to the people and to act on their behalf.
So the people give me hope. The random acts of kindness I see every day in the midst of a pandemic. The ways in which survivors who I’ve met along the way are counseling other survivors … The moms that banded together because they’ve lost their sons to opioid addiction, and now want to help other families not suffer the same pain. That sort of stuff gives me hope every day. I’m proud to have a role protecting those people, and finding the good in our community.