Schuette speaks on anti-sex trafficking at White House
Washington — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette was on hand at the White House Wednesday for President Donald Trump’s signing of a bill intended to crack down on websites that knowingly facilitate online sex trafficking.
Schuette had joined other attorneys general last year and in 2013 in urging Congress to revise federal law to allow state and local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute websites for violating federal sex trafficking laws.
The bipartisan legislation amends Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to also permit victims of sex trafficking to sue social media platforms, advertisers and other websites that knowingly host advertisements for prostitutes, some of whom are child victims of the sex trade.
Trump called on Schuette to speak during the Oval Office ceremony and wished him “good luck with your race,” according to a pool report.
Trump has endorsed Schuette, who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor in Michigan against three other candidates including Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and state Sen. Pat Colbeck of Canton Township.
“The credit goes to the survivors, who put a full-court press on Congress,” Schuette told The Detroit News after the event.
“Now, because of the survivors, the leadership of President Trump and bipartisan congressional leaders, now, attorneys general have the ability to shut down bad actor sites that are using the internet to deceive young women into this terrible human trafficking.”
He said websites such as Backpage.com have used the former law’s liability protections to escape prosecution and civil lawsuits.
“This adds more tools in the arsenal to fight human trafficking, so I was delighted to be invited to the White House today for that,” Schuette said.
Schuette’s office includes a Human Trafficking Unit that works with local, state and federal law enforcement to investigate cases of sex trafficking.
A Trump loyalist, Schuette wouldn’t say whether he would support the president if he moves to fire special counsel Robert Mueller or other senior members of the Justice Department such as Rod Rosenstein.
“I’m going to let him make those decisions and, if and when that occurs, I’ll give a reaction then,” Schuette said. “I’m going to wait and see.”
Critics of the trafficking legislation raised concerns that it could limit free speech online or make victims harder to find after websites censor their content.
“I’m signing this bill in your honor,” Trump told victims and their family members who attended the ceremony. “You have endured what no person on earth should have to endure.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, thanked presidential daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump, saying a meeting she held with members of Congress early in the administration helped create momentum behind the bill.
“We’ve tried for 10 years to get this bill through,” McCarthy said, addressing the victims in the room. “You’ve achieved what we’ve been unable to do.”
An unnamed victim — described as the first person to file a lawsuit against the website Backpage — said, “It’s about damn time.”
And Yvonne Ambrose, the mother of a 16-year-old girl who was killed after being forced into sex slavery, teared up as she thanked Trump for signing the legislation.
“It means so much to our family,” Ambrose said, according to the pool report. “Hopefully, there won’t be any more after her that have to endure that pain.”
Angela Aufdemberge, president and CEO of the Dearborn-based Vista Maria agency that cares for at-risk girls and children, called the legislation an “important first step” in ending the use of the internet to aid commercial sexual exploitation.
“Traffickers commonly force or coerce youth to create postings and these manipulated youth need to be protected and the traffickers and platform providers should be held accountable,” Aufdemberge said in a statement.