PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Americans can expect to see tangible results this fall from the task force President Obama created to investigate the financial crisis, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman told TPM Thursday.
Asked after his keynote speech to the progressive Netroots Nation conference here whether prosecutions from the task force are possible, Schneiderman said: “Nothing’s off the table now. Nothing’s off the table.”
The attorney general is one of five co-chairs of the “special unit” Obama announced at his January State of the Union address. More than 100 staffers and prosecutors have been deployed, Schneiderman said, mostly in Washington, but also in U.S. attorneys offices around the country. The group has been criticized by some for its lack of results thus far. In late May, Schneiderman told the Wall Street Journal he was seeking more prosecutorial firepower. The Journal reported that the group has issued more than two-dozen subpoenas and collected millions of pages of documents. Schneiderman wouldn’t specify how much man power will be necessary.
“I’m continuing to push for more, and faster, but I’m an impatient guy,” Schneiderman told TPM. “I think we’re going to get there.”
Schneiderman’s speech stopped short of specifics for the task force. He gave credit to progressive activists and the Occupy movement’s role in public discourse, saying “true change requires movement-building” and “officials don’t create movements, movements create leaders.” Schneiderman also said the public’s faith in the financial industry is at such a low that America needs a second New Deal.
“The markets didn’t crash because of an act of God,” he said later. “That was a man-made catastrophe. If we have any sense at all, we’re going to do what our predecessors did after the last big catastrophe in the 1930s and do some real re-regulations of the markets.”
While Schneiderman spoke to a mostly receptive crowd, a small group of demonstrators gathered in front of the stage holding “jail the bankers” signs. Schneiderman’s staffers said they thought group was friendly to the attorney general’s efforts to take on the financial industry. But Schneiderman said he appreciates activists who push public officials. “I understand the sentiment,” he said. “People have a sense that they’re not sure what happened, but they feel like somebody got away with something, and there hasn’t been accountability.”
Schneiderman remains an enthusiastic supporter of Obama’s reelection campaign. Introducing former President Bill Clinton at an Obama fundraiser this week, Schneiderman said, according to Capital New York, “Given how much is on the line for everyday Americans, why in the world would we hand over the White House to the same people that left our country in a much worse place than they found it? The same recipe for economic failure is what Mitt Romney’s serving. And I believe the American people will say, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ to a third term for George W. Bush.”
David Taintor is TPM’s News Editor. He contributes to TPM’s Livewire coverage, among other areas. David is from Chanhassen, Minnesota, where, yes, it gets very cold. Reach him at taintor [at] talkingpointsmemo.com