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ACLU gears up for sustained legal offensive against Trump administration

Buoyed by a surge in contributions, the American Civil Liberties Union is launching a sustained legal offensive to challenge President Trump’s potential conflicts of interests and fend off any new policies that target First Amendment freedoms, immigrants, gay rights and abortion access.

The first volley came Thursday, when the ACLU filed public records requests with the Office of Government Ethics, Justice Department, the General Services Administration and the Office of Personnel Management seeking legal memos and internal communications about the possible conflicts of interests posed by Trump’s decision to retain ownership of his private company.

“This is the first shot across the bow to make clear that the law applies to President Trump, and that the ACLU stands ready to oppose any and all unconstitutional policies proposed by his administration,” said Anthony Romero, the ACLU’s executive director.

Since the election, supporters have contributed $47 million to the civil liberties organization, whose annual budget is around $170 million. The bulk of the money came through 400,000 online contributions — most from first-time donors, Romero said.

“Clearly, parts of the American public understand what is at stake and what is at risk, and they look to us to serve as essential bulwark,” he said.

The ACLU has used the donations to create a new Constitution Defense Fund and plans to hire as many as 100 new staffers around the country. Romero said the group has spent the last two months mapping out a strategy to use public records requests and litigation to push for congressional oversight and gum Trump’s policies up in the courts.

“We may have a new president, but we have the same old system of checks and balances,” he said, adding: “We’re in for the fight of our lives, and we plan to be ready.”

Live coverage of Trump’s inauguration
The U.S. Capitol frames the backdrop over the stage during a rehearsal of President-elect Donald Trump’s swearing-in ceremony this week in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Donald Trump will be sworn in Friday during an inauguration that’s expected to draw between 700,000 and 900,000 people. Security officials said there are 63 demonstration groups, pro and con, also expected Friday. Follow our liveblog for updates through this afternoon’s inaugural parade.