Murphy picks son of immigrants to be attorney general — and fight Trump
Gov.-elect Phil Murphy wants his attorney general to be active in picking legal fights with President Donald Trump's administration – and purposely selected the son of immigrants from Indian to do so.
Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal, of Glen Rock, will be nominated, Murphy announced Tuesday. Grewal is a former federal prosecutor in Brooklyn from 2004 to 2007 and in Newark from 2010 to 2016, where he was chief of the economic crimes unit.
He is in line to be America's first Sikh to serve as a state attorney general,
"There should be no mistake as to why I have asked him to serve in our Cabinet," said Murphy. "A proud son of New Jersey and of immigrants, Gurbir has committed his life to giving back to the state and nation that have given his family so much. His story is the American story."
Grewal, 44, said he never dreamed growing up in Bergen and Essex counties that he'd one day be New Jersey's chief law enforcement officer.
"I wanted to give back to a country that has given us and other immigrant families like us so much," Grewal said. "And in the process, I wanted to perhaps also show people that while I and others like me may look different or worship differently that we, too, are committed to this country.”
Grewal's wife, Amrit, a neurologist, and their three daughters were on hand for the announcement, and the nominee addressed his daughters in the remarks about the value of hard work and public service. He thanked his 4-year-old for letting him leave the line last month at Disney World's Little Mermaid ride to take the call from Murphy's office to broach the idea of becoming attorney general.
“As someone who has experienced hate and intolerance first-hand throughout my life, I wanted to work to ensure that we all live in, and that the three of you grow up in, a fair and just society," Grewal said.
Murphy stressed that it's "exceedingly important” for Grewal to join the state in legal fights against what he calls “an assault coming at us out of Washington.” He cited immigration, voting rights, health care, the environment and protections for LGBT residents as areas where New Jersey can fight the Trump administration in the courts.
“In light of all that is being thrown at us by the president, we need an attorney general unafraid to join our fellow states in using the law to protect all New Jersey residents," said Murphy.
“States will have never mattered more. Governors will have never mattered more. And attorneys general will have never mattered more," Murphy said.
Murphy's selection of Grewal. a registered Democrat, was roundly applauded, including by Republicans.
Gov. Chris Christie, who stuck with his nomination of Grewal for Bergen County prosecutor for three years even though the Senate didn't initially hold a hearing, said he's confident Grewal has the skills needed "to be an attorney general we can be proud of in New Jersey."
The current attorney general, Christopher Porrino, called the nomination a great choice on Twitter.
Murphy said Grewal has a track record dealing with hacking crimes, securities fraud, opioids and other key issues – including the opioids epidemic.
“We need an attorney general who is as equally committed to compassionate outcomes as in erasing the stigma of addiction as he is to forcefully going after the sources of illicit drugs," Murphy said.
Grewal said in Bergen County he has used "a law enforcement approach that now focuses on the underlying disease of addiction by incorporating prevention and treatment options, rather than focusing on arrests alone.”
The nomination won't be formally made until the new Legislature is seated Jan. 9, one week before Murphy takes office Jan. 16. The pick requires Senate confirmation.
Murphy has named one other Cabinet officer so far. Lt. Gov.-elect Sheila Oliver will head the Department of Community Affairs. Because she will be lieutenant governor, the Senate will not vote on that nomination.
Murphy said he hasn't made a decision yet whether to retain or replace the new State Police superintendent, Col. Patrick Callahan, whose division, like the attorney general, is part of the Department of Law and Public Safety.
Murphy said he had a courtesy meeting with Callahan and called him a "very impressive gentleman."