First Sikh nominated to be New Jersey attorney general

TRENTON, N.J. — Democratic Gov.-elect Phil Murphy on Tuesday announced his nomination for attorney general, picking a Chris Christie-appointed prosecutor who Murphy said would stand up to President Donald Trump.

Murphy said at his Trenton transition office that Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal would be the first Sikh attorney general in the state and country. Murphy pointed to a frequent campaign promise to select a prosecutor who would push back against the Republican Trump administration.

"New Jersey needs an Attorney General with a steel backbone, one that will stand up for New Jersey against everything coming our way from Washington," Murphy said.

New Jersey will go from a Republican to Democratic administration on Jan. 16 when Murphy takes over from Christie, a friend and at-times adviser to Trump. Among other things, the change means New Jersey is poised to join other states' attorneys general suing the Trump administration.

Christie tapped Grewal in 2016 to be prosecutor in Bergen, New Jersey's most populous county. He is a former assistant U.S. attorney in the criminal division in the New Jersey district and also served as a prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York.

Grewal, a Democrat, said he's "honored" to be nominated.

Asked what role Murphy's promise to consider legal action against Trump played in his accepting the nomination, Grewal said he hasn't discussed specific litigation with Murphy but shares his vision for building a "fairer" state.

"I chose to pursue this opportunity ... to make sure we have a just and fair society for all New Jerseyans, all 9 million of them," Grewal said.

Grewal, who wears a turban and full beard, said he wants to show the country and his three daughters, who were seated in the front row, his commitment to working to end intolerance.

"I wanted to perhaps also show other people that while I and others like me may look different or worship differently that we too are committed to this country," he said. "As someone who has experienced hate and intolerance firsthand 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."

If confirmed, he would succeed Attorney General Christopher Porrino. Porrino called Grewal's nomination a great choice on Twitter.

"Grewal is the kind of public servant who leaves his ego at the door & does the right thing for the right reasons. He's smart, trustworthy and tenacious; qualities which will make him an extraordinarily successful AG," Porrino said.

Grewal, as Bergen County Prosecutor, did not pursue charges last year against Christie when Bill Brennan, a former Teaneck firefighter, brought a complaint against the governor over the 2013 George Washington Bridge scandal.

Grewal recused himself from the case, and his office did not pursue the official misconduct charges. Christie was never charged in the federal case and denied any wrongdoing.

Murphy has now announced two Cabinet posts, including Grewal. He also says that Lt. Gov.-elect Sheila Oliver will serve as commissioner for the Department of Community Affairs, which coordinates state aid to towns and cities and oversees code enforcement.