RICHMOND, Va. — While a supporter of Donald Trump during last year’s presidential campaign and since the president has taken office in January, John Adams said there’s a limit to how far his loyalty goes — to any president.
“My main reason for that was the vacancy on the Supreme Court, left by Justice Scalia’s passing,” said Adams, who is challenging Attorney General Mark Herring in Tuesday’s election. “I think the most important thing that the presidential administration has done is put a new Supreme Court justice on the bench and Judge Gorsuch is a very good judge.”
But Adams added in a phone interview with VCU’s iPadJournos reporting project that he would take the proper actions as Virginia’s attorney general against a president, or anyone, who does anything illegal or anything to hurt Virginia.
“My job is to look out for Virginia, period,” the Republican said. “Having been a lawyer, with the exception of the Navy, basically my entire adult life, I understand what it means to represent a client. My view as attorney general is, as long as people are doing things that are legal and don’t hurt Virginia, I’m fine. The minute anybody, whether they are a Republican or a Democrat, whether it’d be Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, if a president does something that is illegal and hurts Virginia, then I will take all appropriate actions to stop them.”
The Chesterfield County native wants to become Virginia’s next attorney general to fight the opioid crisis, gun violence and crime, while bringing more business to the Commonwealth.
“We’ve seen a horrific increase of gun violence in the City of Richmond,” said Adams, who is the father of four sons. “One of the things that I would do that is in the power of the attorney general’s office, is to work with the City of Richmond to work with federal officials and coordinate.”
While working as a federal prosecutor, Adams saw the benefits of having different departments work together. Over a 10-year span, he worked on the crime reduction initiative Project Exile, which saw the murder rate drop in Richmond. It’s the type of project he hopes to start up and continue.
“We were able to really save a lot of lives by thoroughly prosecuting gun crimes inside the state of Virginia,” Adams said.
At the beginning of his campaign a year and nine months ago, Adams said he used to say that three Virginians a day die from heroin overdose. Now that number has increased to four.
“We need to provide some leadership and get in ahead of this thing,” Adams said. “One of the concrete things we’re going to do is we’re going to put a substance abuse coordination center in the attorney general’s office that will facilitate coordinated action between all levels of government, state, federal and local. As well as community groups and faith based groups, the hospital and medical community and the recovery community and industry, candidly. Because we’ve got to get everybody rowing in the same direction.
“It’s going to require significant prevention efforts with young kids, to get to them before the drugs get to them,” Adams added. “It’s going to require significant investment in recovery to get people who are addicted off the drugs, and it’s going to require a significant commitment to major prosecutions to prosecute the people who are going these poisons into Virginia.”
Adams is also planning to target so called “spoofing” frauds and crimes.
“Spoofing sort of has two levels to it,” Adams said. “It’s annoying, because what they do is they put it the telephone number in your area code and often use the first three digits of your phone number, and psychologically that makes you think that you likely know the person, so you answer it then you find it out you’re on the phone with somebody who’s trying to sell you replacement windows or something. On that level, it’s annoying and that’s a problem. It’s the number one consumer complaint to the federal communications commission.
“On a second level, it’s actually very dangerous, because you can use spoofing to, essentially it’s part of a fraud to get people’s money. There are famous scams where people will spoof the number up like an official group, like the IRS. So they’ll call you and you think you’re talking to an official government agency, or you think you’re talking to someone at your bank and it lends a bit of credibility to a fraudster. So I think it’s really important to get out ahead of it.”
Adams said that Herring ignored the problem.
“The current attorney general, for whatever reason, did not join a group of several attorney generals around the country, vary by partisan, Republicans and Democrats, working with the FCC to strengthen federal regulations to clamp down on it, and I would do that,” Adams said.
Adams has also made it a priority of his campaign to make Virginia a “business-friendly” state again. Adams discussed how he would help Virginia's business climate as attorney general.
“Well, the attorney general’s role in this is sort of, I think, two-fold,” Adams said. “But the attorney general can one, enforce the laws of Virginia evenly, fairly and thoroughly, and that helps your business climate. For example, we are a right-to-work state, but the current attorney general doesn’t like that law, so he’s actually worked against the law in the U.S. Supreme Court. I would simply defend the law, as Virginia has had it passed for very a long time, because the right-to-work law, which says you can’t be forced to join a union in order to a job, is really important for the economic climate of Virginia.”
Herring has released a number of negative ads attacking Adams and his campaign, but Adams said that many of them are “plain false.”
“So first of all, a lot of people see negative ads, and I think they should take a moment to think about that,” Adams said. “I’ve never run for office before, and yet my opponent who has been the attorney general for four years, has run almost entirely negative ads against me. I think people ought to take a deep breath and first think about that. It says something about his failure to do the job that Virginians hired him to do, and it’s really been surprising and stunning to me, the way he has handled the campaign.”
Adams said he doesn’t focus on the party label, but focuses on his own experience that would benefit Virginia if he were become attorney general.
“After VMI I was in the Navy, but after the Navy, I went to law school here in Virginia at UVA,” Adams said. “ I’ve clerked on the United State’s Supreme Court, I’ve been a federal prosecutor, I was a lawyer to the president of the United States, and I’ve helped run one of the largest law firms in the state. So I think that experience, representing individuals, representing people when I was a federal prosecutor who had been victims of crime. Those kinds of things, that experience, is the kind of experience I think we need in the attorney general’s office.”
Please view the full interview with John Adams below:
EDITOR’S NOTE: WTVR.com has partnered with the “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project at VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students from the project reported this story.