GOP lawmakers: attorney general is 'grandstanding' with Trump lawsuits

Erin Cox
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Republican state lawmakers asked the attorney general this “to stop grandstanding” and accused him of exploiting his new power to sue the Trump administration.

The Maryland lawmakers warned Democratic Attorney General Brian E. Frosh they intended to “exercise our legal and moral duty” to provide oversight to the legal action he takes against the federal government.

The Republicans put Frosh on notice that they intended to “make sure the precious tax dollars of Marylanders who toil daily to provide for their families are not squandered on lawsuits whose actual goals are meant to grandstand and score political points,” they wrote in a letter signed by the majority of the GOP legislators.

“Please remember that your clients are all of the people of Maryland, not just those disappointed by the results of the 2016 election,” the lawmakers wrote in the four-page letter dated Monday.

In an interview, Frosh said the half-dozen legal actions he’s filed against the Trump administration so far have been aimed at protecting the health care, the environment and education opportunities for Maryland residents.

He said the minority party was welcome to attempt to roll back the new authority granted to him in February by the Democrat-dominated General Assembly, where he was a lawmaker for 28 years.

“They can certainly do that if they can muster the vote,” he said.

The Republicans took issue in particular with the high-profile lawsuit filed by Frosh that alleges President Donald J. Trump’s global real estate empire violates the emoluments clause of the constitution.

“I know he was given broad powers,” said Del. Haven N. Shoemaker Jr. of Carroll County, a member of the Republican leadership who drafted the letter. “But there are some strings attached. And the emoluments case is above and beyond the pale as far as I'm concerned.”

Shoemaker, a lawyer, said he questioned how it helped average residents.

“I don't see how it helps the interests of the citizens of Maryland, and that's what Frosh is supposed to be guarding.”

In broad terms, the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution forbids presidents from earning money or taking payments from foreign governments. Frosh called it “the original anti-corruption” law.

“It's not frivolous,” Frosh said. “It's about the right of the American people” to know what motivates the president’s policy decisions.

The Republicans’ letter, signed by 35 of the 64 GOP members of the General Assembly, asks Frosh to give a full accounting of how his lawsuits meet the criteria outlined in a resolution that granted the attorney general power. Among those provisions: notifying Republican Gov. Larry Hogan about any potential lawsuits and answering in writing any concerns the governor raises.

Frosh said that in each instance, his office has notified Hogan about the coming legal actions. So far, Hogan has objected to none.

A spokeswoman for Hogan asked why the governor should respond, since the Democrat-controlled legislature removed Hogan’s ability to control which lawsuits get filed.

Shoemaker, the GOP’s parliamentarian, said the state’s minority party will likely look to whether they can curtail Frosh’s power when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.

ecox@baltsun.com

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