Our exclusive interview with new Philadelphia district attorney Larry Krasner, who blew out the competition with an ultra-progressive platform

Philadelphia Democratic district attorney candidate Larry Krasner gives a speech at a fundraiser at a supporter's house in Center City, Philadelphia.

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Philadelphia Democratic district attorney candidate Larry Krasner gives a speech at a fundraiser at a supporter’s house in Center City, Philadelphia.
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Harrison Jacobs/Business Insider

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania – Civil rights attorney Larry Krasner won the race for district attorney in Philadelphia on Tuesday in a blowout, taking 75% of the vote and seeing a turnout increase of nearly 75,000 votes compared to the last competitive DA race in 2009.

Krasner generated a fervent following among progressives, criminal justice reform advocates, millennials, and communities of color during the campaign, due to a platform calling for an end to “mass incarceration,” the constellation of state and federal policies that have put more than 2 million Americans behind bars, and his long-established reputation as an advocate for civil rights, activists, and protesters.

Business Insider traveled to Philadelphia in October to follow Krasner and his campaign. Over the course of a weekend, Business Insider spoke with Krasner for more than two hours on everything from his campaign to the 2016 election and President Donald Trump.

The transcript below is edited for length and clarity.

Harrison Jacobs: The top line headline about you, in the New York Times and other outlets is that you’ve sued the police 75 times, you are the lawyer for Black Lives Matter, Occupy, and every other major activist group. Do you consider yourself an activist?

Larry Krasner: I don’t think I should get that much credit. I consider myself an activist’s lawyer. I consider myself to be a movement lawyer. But calling myself an activist maybe gives me too much credit.

Jacobs: Why did you get into defending those causes? A sense of principle? Something else?

Larry Krasner quote cards

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Mike Nudelman/Business Insider

Krasner: If you talk to activists, which I’ve been doing for a very long time, I think if you look at the Civil Rights Movement, if you look at the relationship, for example, between [Martin Luther] King and William Kunstler, who was one of the lawyers for King, but I think [Kunstler] used to refer to the lawyers as “technicians” for the movement.

Historically, there’s always been a problem of lawyers thinking they know everything, which is in fact a problem in life with lawyers … There’s been a culture of activism of making it clear to lawyers that the support is necessary and appreciated, but they weren’t necessarily the leaders of the movement. Yeah they were the technicians for it. That’s part of the reason why when you ask me if I am an activist that I respond that way.

In reference to your next question, I don’t necessarily agree with every single thing that the group’s I’ve represented stand for. I often do.

But part of my fascination with representing activists and organizers is really about free speech. That goes way back.


Krasner says he may have spent his career defending protesters, but he won’t be defending Nazis.

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Andrew VanBuesking (L) watches as his daughter Avi, 2, marks on the street with chalk during a vigil where 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed when a car plowed into a crowd of people protesting against the white supremacist Unite the Right rally August 13, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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Getty Images

Jacobs: You’ve talked a lot about free speech, civil rights, the principles of that. I’m wondering … the ACLU is very fundamentalist when it comes to that type of thing, where they were defending Nazis in Charlottesville in court so that they could protest.

Krasner: I don’t defend Nazis … First of all, I have huge respect for the ACLU and was foolish enough as a young lawyer when I was interviewing for jobs in district attorney’s offices and public defenders’ offices coming out law school to put on my resume that I hoped to someday work with the ACLU. Which turned out to be a pretty good way not to be hired by district attorneys.

I have mad love for the ACLU, but I also know that the powerless and people without money have plenty of work for lawyers to do. I ain’t doing it for Nazis. There are too many missing branches on my family tree for me to spend my time working for free for Nazis.

I’m going to work for people who are at least in the ballpark of going against hate rather than in favor of it. And at least in the ballpark of trying to advocate for decent policies. I’m also not working for the NRA and there’s probably a list that could go on for a while. But no, I think that hateful people have plenty of supporters and I would rather work for people who aren’t hateful.

Jacobs: Do you think that as a national organization the ACLU is making a mistake?

Krasner: I think they have to remain true to their own mission. It’s different when you are out here in the working world trying to run your own law practice and pay frankly exorbitant taxes and deciding what you are going to do with your extra free work. I ain’t doing my extra free work for a bunch of Nazis.

I ain’t doing my extra free work for a bunch of Nazis.

Jacobs: You’ve described yourself as a “technician” for the movement. I imagine that, with your interest in those things, you saw that as the best way for you to use your talents to help any cause, whether you agreed with it or not. Is your decision to go after DA now an acknowledgement that maybe your talents are better served in another role. Is that the way you are seeing it?

Krasner:I have – like a lot of civil rights lawyers, like a lot of activists – been beating my head against the wall of the DA’s office and the [Philadelphia] police department for a long time because the DA’s office in Philly was not enforcing the law against police. Somebody had to do it.

I’m not a fan of bullies, and a small portion of the police department were behaving like bullies. So I felt that somebody had to prosecute them, which is essentially what I did by filing civil rights lawsuits against them. I used the only tools in the toolbox to essentially be a private prosecutor against civil rights violations and corruption and brutality on the part of police. I’ve been doing that for a long time. And activists have been doing that for a long time and we’ve done some good.

But ultimately if you never break down the wall, you may have to go through the door, because there’s stuff going on on the inside that is hard to fix from the outside.

So having been a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer for 30 years, I watched this election with my usual level of dismay because I didn’t see any great candidates popping up … And the rest of [the candidates during the primary] frankly were, at best, progressive-lite, more like faux-progressives who had not shown in their careers or in their dealings with me – and I dealt with a lot of them personally – who had not shown attention for reform … I just figured this is ridiculous. Somebody real has got to get into this because these people aren’t going to change anything.


The ‘Soros money’ took the race from a close win to a blowout.

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Philadelphia Democratic district attorney candidate Larry Krasner speaks at a candidate forum at the Arch Street United Methodist Church, a landmark center of activism in Philadelphia, on October 21, 2017.
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Harrison Jacobs/Business Insider

Jacobs: Was it the support of activists – knowing that they would have your back – that convinced you that you could win?

Krasner: That was a lot of it … I also was vetted by people, who were frankly a bit of a mystery to me. But we later concluded that they were vetting to determine what candidate they liked to be supported by George Soros’s PAC. The name George Soros and the word PAC was never mentioned. But there was a request for me to meet with them to discuss my positions on someone representing political funders. That’s all I knew.

Jacobs: What effect do you think the “Soros money” had on the campaign?

Krasner: I think it I think it had an effect … If you look at the internal campaign, [we campaigned] half as long or less than half as long as the other people who came close. If you look at the actual money raised, less money by far than Joe Kahn [who placed second and was the frontrunner at the beginning of the race], less institutional support than Joe Kahn, who in many ways was the mainstream liberal candidate.

From an anecdotal perspective … I went to all these ward meetings. I had tremendous benefit from the endorsement of Michael Coard [a well-known African-American lawyer in Philadelphia]. When I would go into predominantly black neighborhoods, generally they weren’t familiar with us. I was an unknown person. I had a name that started with a K. Joe Kahn had a name that started with a K.

I would talk to these older African-American women who were committee people, and they would say, “Are you the one Michael Coard endorsed?” If I said yes, I was good. Or “are you the civil rights guy?” And if I said yes, then I was good.

The difference was once the television, the radio, and the mailings started, I would now go into essentially the same type of an area and people would come up to me and say, “You’re Larry Krasner, and I’m voting for you.”

I have to tell you I was a little disturbed by some of the advertising, because I thought that putting out a mailing in which you really emphasized “defended Black Lives Matter,” “defended Occupy” – that looked to me to be a risky strategy. What I did not understand is that it wasn’t.

It’s that millennials and African-Americans and a lot of social justice-oriented white people and a lot of white people who are working class really were progressive and they really were open to a message that was things like “no death penalty,” “put the money back in schools,” “mass incarceration,” and “stop taking people’s property unjustifiably.”

I think [the Soros money] increased the margin. I think that’s fair. But I also think that we were not only neck and neck, but that we had been steadily increasing our vote share. We had done very well in the early polls. And I think that we would have narrowly won or very narrowly lost without the outside support.

The two candidates who were more institutional, better funded, and ran much longer campaigns … I truly believe that the strength of this was that it was a movement and it was a message that resonated. When I put that message out there, these other candidates had either no platform or they had two planks in the platform.


There is ‘absolutely’ a lesson for Democrats in his big win.

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Philadelphia Democratic district attorney candidate Larry Krasner speaks at a candidate forum at the Arch Street United Methodist Church, a landmark center of activism in Philadelphia, on October 21, 2017.
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Mike Nudelman/Business Insider

Jacobs:Would it be fair to say that [ took a bold message and then amplified it? Or made it bolder?

Krasner: I think it’s fair to say that they amplified the platform. And they also taught me a lesson, which is that it’s not 1987 anymore. People want their same sex marriage. They want their recreational marijuana. They want their economic equality. Especially millennials and older African-Americans, who’ve been through the civil rights movement and have seen it.

They know there is racism. They don’t want racism, but they do want their public schools, which in many places don’t exist anymore. It was a lesson to me that my views were being characterized as controversial. They’re actually pretty mainstream with the average Democratic voter in Philadelphia County.

Jacobs: Do you think there’s a lesson in that for the national Democratic Party?

Krasner:Absolutely. Absolutely. Let me just give you a little teeny tiny portion of it. I think if the Democrats nationally were to come out in favor of recreational marijuana, for many reasons, the first and best of them being it doesn’t kill anybody. But alcohol does. And when I say alcohol does, I mean like 80,000 lives a year.

And marijuana kills nobody. It doesn’t kill anybody but opiates and opioids do. And I mean like 60,000 lives every year. These are real numbers. As compared to zero.

I think that if Democrats would come out for that, then you would see a lot of rural areas that went for Trump where there’s little pickup trucks going to the polls, with guys who have beards and they have ponytails and they have a gun rack in the back, and they would be voting for recreational marijuana because they know it makes sense too.

They know that the reality is where it’s readily available you have a 25 percent reduction in opioid/opiate fatalities. That is a national catastrophe. They know that at least the states that get in early are going to have tremendous tax funds that they can use to bolster education.

The Democratic Party has got to stop running around trying to be close to the Republican Party. Bernie made that clear. And for those who didn’t pay attention, he did actually win the youth vote in, I think, every single state among Democrats and he took 46 percent of the vote nationally. So wake up.

Jacobs: Were you surprised by the activist energy around your campaign? Do you think that was a big source of why you were doing so well?

Krasner: I was not surprised. I was very encouraged. I was actually kind of amazed because I knew how capable they were. But I didn’t expect that explosive level of volunteer support. Their explosive capacity in social media … That to me was a real lesson in how all these leaders, which is what [these activists] are, all these scrappy little leaders who have been you know fighting wars with their fingernails and winning could do politics.

And the reality is they are way better than the vast majority of political operatives. They just are. They just haven’t been engaged in conventional politics.

Jacobs:Do you think we’re seeing an awakening towards that? If you look at the recent history of activism, it is generally around single issues … marching and demonstrations and things like that. Do you think we’re seeing a switch towards more electoral politics?

Krasner: Bernie [Sanders] was very encouraging to a lot of people. I think Trump was very frightening to people. And the reality is that there’s a big generational shift going on right now. The values of millennials are significantly different than the values of the old Reagan Democrats.

Maybe I’m wrong but I have this sense that millennials, for whatever reason, feel like it’s OK to be young and try to do something. They don’t feel like they have to wait until they’re 56. Like I did. I do think there’s a shift.

Yeah I think that there’s something going on. I think it’s real. I think the Democratic Party should be madly wrapping its loving arms around progressives.

I think the Democratic Party should be madly wrapping its loving arms around progressives.

I hope they will. Especially progressives like me who voted Democrat our whole lives and went to the polls every time.

Jacobs: Do you think that’s why this race in particular went so far left? Like you said, almost every Democratic DA candidate was falling over themselves to be progressive.

Krasner: Here’s a couple of points on the graph. Barack Obama was a community organizer. Republicans thought that was their home-run shot. Ah! He’s a community organizer. What a jackass. How funny! Not so funny. Elected twice.

Here comes Bernie, self-proclaimed socialist. Ah, a socialist! It’s so funny! Not so funny. 46%. Obviously, Bernie’s obstacle which he was unable to overcome, was uniting millennials with African-American votes. Hillary hung onto the African-American vote.

So then this election happens. Novice politician, doesn’t really know what he’s doing. And in Philadelphia, the millennials held hands with the blacks.


Krasner says African-American voters in Philly generally know far more about criminal justice issues because they’ve experienced the system in ‘three dimensions.’

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A Southwest Philadelphia resident asks Democratic district attorney candidate Larry Krasner a question at a candidate forum at the Kingsessing Recreation Center in Southwest Philadelphia.
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Harrison Jacobs/Business Insider

Jacobs: Why do you think that happened? What’s different here? Was it because of you? Because of them?

Krasner: I think it’s hard to get around the reality that one in three black men experience jail. And that means that black women, who were our best voter according to the political people in this campaign, have watched their brothers and their parents, their fathers, and their sons go to jail and get convictions young and be forced into a cycle of poverty. They have had to be the glue in those communities to hold everything together.

While all this was going on, you were having the destruction of economic potential, destruction of familial relationships, the breakdown of certain neighborhoods and communities by this type of policing, they’ve seen it happen.

In many ways, the more difficult voters for me are, and have been, white liberals who have not themselves experienced jail, nor have any of the family members, nor has anyone on their block

The black voters in Philly, and I say this based on 30 years of picking juries and talking to them, are more likely to have a family member who is a police officer, a family member who is in jail, and a family member who has been killed or severely victimized. They are more likely to have seen this whole thing in three dimensions.

The black voters in Philly … are more likely to have a family member who is a police officer, a family member who is in jail, and a family member who has been killed or severely victimized. They are more likely to have seen this whole thing in three dimensions.

Whether or not they have affluence and a fancy degree like the white liberals do in certain parts of town, they know what they are talking about. So I think perhaps we had the advantage that these were issues that were very, very well known to African-American voters, especially women voters.

Jacobs: Did you guys try to reach white liberals?

Krasner: We did. And don’t get me wrong, we got a lot of white liberal votes, but they tended to be people who were involved in social justice. They tended to be people who were in helping professions.

For example, we would have a ton of support from public school teachers, young men and young women who were social workers or probation officers. People who were in the non-profit community …

And then when it got more affluent and the work that was being done by those white liberals had less to do with helping professions and social justice, those votes were a little bit more difficult for us because ultimately they haven’t really gotten a close look at what mass incarceration is. Because needless to say, they aren’t going to jail and nobody in the neighborhood is.


One of his biggest initiatives will be transparency — creating a “real-time” report card of his policies for citizens.

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A Philly R.E.A.L. Justice Coalition activist gives a speech at a protest in front of police officers at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Philadelphia on October 21, 2017.
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Harrison Jacobs/Business Insider

Jacobs:Before I came here, I was in front of the International Association of Chiefs of Police Convention. There was a protest from criminal justice activists. Considering that these groups are young Millennials, generally, diverse, and often headed by people of color – people you want to reach – have you thought about how you want to get them engaged?

Krasner: A lot of them are engaged now. There are a lot of forearm tattoos out there with my literature in their hands as they canvass, and there’s a fixie bike at home. I think an awful lot of them are engaged and have been incredibly supportive.

A very big issue to them – and it’s legit – is transparency. They’ve made that clear from the very beginning of the campaign. They don’t want to hear a bunch of rhetoric that is unprovable and untested … They want to know, and ideally in real time, whether progress is being made or progress is being lost on the stated goals. And if this system is not producing or is not just, they want to adjust it.

Jacobs: What do you think that transparency would look like?

Krasner:You are, of course, speaking to a Luddite, but from this Luddite’s perspective, I think having it on a webpage. An actual, usable web page that is also a report card. It makes sense.

A lot of this stuff I need to learn, but if we’re actually going to try to make a difference on “mass incarceration,” you don’t want to look at that every 6 months. You want to be able to look at that more quickly. You want to be accountable to that.

This is not just some idealistic pursuit of transparency, and other things that are important to millennials. Frankly, it’s my defense.

My defense, because what has happened since the era of yellow journalism is that you take an anecdote, a proverbial shark-bite and you cause panic. It has been a politics of fear this whole time. There are a lot of people dead-set against reform, and they are going to do just that.

If you are then able to turn to what the real statistics are, also known as science, and talk in terms of what the big pattern is, then you can have a rational conversation. As opposed to the anecdotal tactics of Ronald Reagan and yellow journalism that sold papers.


He says his reform will succeed because he has ‘a movement’ behind him.

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Lev Hirschorn, a founder of Reclaim Philadelphia, a political organization created by former Bernie Sanders campaign staffers, works on his laptop while two volunteers gather campaign materials for canvassing.
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Harrison Jacobs/Business Insider

Jacobs: A lot of times reformers come in with a big mandate, and then you see the first crime spike and their support drops out from under them in terms of the public appetite for reform. Are you worried about that?

Krasner: I think you’re giving a pretty accurate account of what has happened historically. I also think a lot of those crime spikes have been caused by those policies. Because I truly think this is a movement … I truly don’t believe it was about me in particular. I don’t need a career as a politician, nor do I want to run for anything else.

I don’t need a career as a politician, nor do I want to run for anything else.

I am talking about it as a movement, both cause it’s true and as a tactic.

The Civil Rights Movement continued after certain people were killed. It was a movement. In some ways, the leadership is irrelevant. If you have a crime spike, and you have people power, the people power will answer because it’s just not about Krasner thinks.

It’s about all of these community groups, these activists, these non-profits, these local leaders as clergy saying, “Forget about Krasner. It’s a movement and this is what we say. That’s a very important change of narrative from being about a person to it being about a consensus among a much broader community.

Jacobs: I was talking to Fordham professor John Pfaff recently, and he said that difference in this race is that the traditional base that votes for a DA is white, middle-class, affluent, and not that knowledgeable on the issues. But the base that has come out for you tended to be these communities that, as you said, understand this issue in three dimensions.

Krasner: It’s really fascinating because a lot of the traditional technocratic, more corporate liberals who view themselves as really good people – and I’m not not saying they are bad people – but a lot of them would claim that my supporters aren’t as well educated so they don’t know the truth. They are totally missing the point.

Not every form of education comes in a class. And God knows none of it comes from watching “Law and Order.


Krasner says criminal justice reform won’t happen immediately, but it’s starting.

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A Southwest Philadelphia resident asks Democratic district attorney candidate Larry Krasner a question at a candidate forum at the Kingsessing Recreation Center in Southwest Philadelphia.
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Mike Nudelman/Business Insider

Jacobs: Is there a recognition now that local elections matter more? Or not, more, but more than people thought?

Krasner: I think there is a very wide recognition among the Left that local stuff matters. And especially for criminal justice … A lot of the story as I have experienced it is that district attorneys have so much power to stay their hand or use an iron fist that it just makes a tremendous difference how they are feeling or what they believe.

District attorneys have the ability to shut down a lot of the worst impulses of state legislators who are running off the politics of fear and self-promotion, by staying their hand. It really does matter.

If you have major cities with major mass incarceration problems, where progressive DAs are coming in, you are going to see big changes to mass incarceration in terms of the policies that are pursued.And to the extent that those policies can prove themselves – which I believe they will – then you may see more of a national discussion and more of a legislative discussion about how science supports this change in the law.

Jacobs: We’ve started to see the conversation around criminal justice change from what it had been forever, but do you think that change needs to happen on the local and state level first before we get to a national consensus?

Krasner: Yes. I think that’s the only way it’s going to happen.Simply the fact that people, who were given life sentences whether they were juveniles in Pennsylvania or or they were third strikers in California that their track record after their release shows really low rates of recidivism is meaningful. But it’s meaningful.

Are we just going to keep lighting money on fire for people we call monsters, but when they get out they are less likely to commit crimes than the average person? Why would we do that? We have public schools in disarray.

It’s going to be a process. I don’t think things are going to happen over night. It’ll be a bit like turning a giant ship in a bathtub, but it’s starting.


He thinks DAs can make a huge difference in police-involved shootings simply by not ‘covering them up.’

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Activists from Philly R.E.A.L. Justice Coalition, an organization focused on ending oppression, protest in front of police officers at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Philadelphia on October 21, 2017.
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Harrison Jacobs/Business Insider

Jacobs:Former police commissioner Charles Ramsey implemented a lot of reforms towards police-involved shootings in the department after the Department of Justice released that study a few years ago. Do you think enough progress has been made on that with the police department or is there more that needs to be done?

Krasner: There is more that needs to be done. It’s just an inherent conflict of interest to have first responders investigating. It just is. It’s always going to be a struggle But I do think that Ramsey and [current police commissioner Richard] Ross have gone in the right direction, and want to continue in that direction.

Jacobs:What do you think that you can do as DA on improving those issues?

Krasner: Stop covering them up. Take the decisions outside of politics and go back to pretty basic standards of even-handed accountability. Everyone calls what we are doing radical. I don’t think so. When you say, “The police are never accountable for 30 years.” That’s radical. This is going back to where normal lives.

Jacobs: I spoke to the heads of both police unions and one said that your stance that officers’ names can be released within 30 days of an incident [such as a police-involved killing] was a deal breaker in terms of the union supporting you.

Krasner: They would like to have a system in which, regardless of the investigative value of releasing names, and regardless of the fact that everybody else’s name gets released, unless it’s a juvenile or perhaps a victim, they would like to have a system where they get special treatment. Sorry.

What I said to them was very specifically that should be determined on an individualized basis. If there is a real threat of harm that is a significant factor. But we’re dealing with a constitutional right of access to the courts.

We’re dealing with a system in which other people who are arrested do not have that privilege, and we’re trying to break down the notion that there’s preferential treatment for law enforcement because that is what is separating law enforcement from communities that they are supposed to serve and that’s what is making it harder for them to get intelligence from those communities to solve crimes.

Let’s not kid ourselves though. The fact is that anybody who sued them is going to be blackballed. That’s the reality … When they have standards that are unreasonable, they’re going to claim “You’re the enemy” if you ever file a lawsuit. They’re going to claim you’re the enemy if you’re a career police officer or police commissioner, who doesn’t agree with them. It just is what it is.

They take fringe extremist positions. And I’m completely unwilling to join them on the fringe extreme. A lot of my predecessors were happy to do that because they thought there was political advantage in that. I don’t care about political advantage.


He envisions a DA’s office that is part of ‘an ecosystem of nonprofits.’

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Inmates take part in a group therapy session in an acute unit of the mental heath unit at the Harris County Jail, Friday, Aug. 15, 2014, in Houston.
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Jacobs: The grant to reduce the prison population by 34% . [Philadelphia was awarded a $3.5 million MacArthur Foundation grant to reduce the city’s prison population in 2016]

Krasner:Yes, our prize for failure.

Jacobs: Do you think that goes far enough?

Krasner:I think I think it’s actually been very positive. My understanding at this point is that there’s almost an 18% reduction in the county population, which is really good news. And that reduction coincides pretty well with a period of time when the grant arrived … I think that is positive.

There’s another aspect to it that we need to look at, which is there’s always the danger when you reduce the county prison populations that you’re doing so by increasing or shifting the population to state custody.

So it’ll be important to take a look and make sure that we’re also making similar progress with Philadelphians going to state custody.

Hopefully there is a reduction in the population that seems to be appropriate proportionally. Otherwise it can all just be illusory. You stick them in state prison for 1-2 years [instead of county prison] and it’s nothing but a shell game.

Jacobs: I was talking to a Philadelphia police officer recently, and he said that he’s been “victim-focused” for 30 years and you are broadening his perspective on how to think about public safety. It’s well-known [to criminologists] that the line between victim and offender is pretty porous – can a DA’s office do something to help people with trauma – victims or offenders?

Krasner: I kind of imagine the district attorney’s office that, like a lot of government agencies in modern times, becomes part of an ecosystem of nonprofits who surround it and can provide important services. As far as the experience for people who have been helped, they may not even know what government did and what the nonprofit did.

I can envision all sorts of services that might become available when grant makers and national funders see they have a progressive DA interested in doing things in modern ways.

I can envision all sorts of services that might become available when grant makers and national funders see they have a progressive DA interested in doing things in modern ways.

That they aren’t going to be at war with the DA, but cooperating tand constructive.

I definitely see the possibility of there being funding, whether it’s coming from the Pennsylvania Victim advocate office, which is a government entity and gets a lot of federal funds for victims. Or if its coming from grant-makers and philanthropists. I could definitely see the potential for much better support for addressing trauma at every level.

There needs to be more support and it needs to be more seamless. It needs to be more like a wrap-around service. I kind of envision a DA’s office, where there all these instructive, capable nonprofits working off of separate grant-based or philanthropic budgets are doing important things like you would expect from a movement, frankly.


He says district attorneys in the Trump era have two very important roles.

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Donald Trump.
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Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Jacobs: Last question – I’ve got to ask you the Trump question. With Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions talking about “Tough on crime” and “Law and Order,” it doesn’t appear the administration has a particularly nuanced perspective on crime.

What is the role of a DA in this era where there is pushback on immigration, “the War on Drugs,” and such a conservative Department of Justice?

Krasner: There are two roles.One role is to fulfill your oath to uphold the constitution. Unfortunately, that means pushing back on national leadership that has no respect for the constitution or separation of power and for American tradition. There is a role that is resisting.

There is a second role which is picking up the types of criminal enforcement that have at least to some extent normally been done by federal prosecutors office. And that includes going after polluters, going after white collar crime, being willing to go after corporate crime.I fully expect that to be abandoned.

Donald Trump’s best friends are corrupt oligarchs. That is true both internationally and nationally. We have every reason to expect that to be abandoned and that means that either there will be no enforcement against these groups or local prosecutors gotta to do it.

It’s a hard lift because you need to have funding and you need to have staff that’s capable and experienced to do it. But you’ve got to try.

Jacobs: And you’ve got a city to worry about.

Krasner: That’s right.