Attorney General Ellison lays out his priorities

Keith Ellison speaks about the federal government shutdown.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison speaks about how his office will deal with the federal government shutdown during a press conference inside the State Capitol in St. Paul on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Growing up, Keith Ellison knew that he was expected to be exceptional. His father believed the way to beat racism was through achievement, according to Ellison's memoir, "My Country, 'Tis of Thee."

His father had grown up in Detroit, Mich., during a time of racial tension and war. He served in World War II and earned a doctorate later in life.

"His mantra was, 'There are no handouts or handups,'" Ellison wrote. "So guess what? None of his sons would have any excuses either."

Ellison recalled that he carried that mantra with him into a life of public service. After law school he worked with the Legal Rights Center, a Minneapolis law firm that represents low-income clients. Then he served two terms as a state representative. In 2007 he won election to Congress, and in 2018 he successfully ran for state attorney general in a campaign roiled by allegations of domestic abuse.

Ellison, who has joined other state attorneys general in suing the Trump administration over the president's declaration of an emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border, says he is committed to being "the people's lawyer."

Ellison joined MPR News host Angela Davis to talk about his priorities as attorney general.

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

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