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Attorney General Frosh talks Trump, consumer protection at town hall

Frosh in LaurelLAUREL – Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump on Monday. Last week, District 1 residents got a sneak peak of some of his criticisms of the president.

Frosh was the special guest at the seventh annual District 1 town hall meeting hosted by County Councilwoman Mary Lehman. This year’s event was held at the Laurel – Beltsville Senior Activity Center on June 7. Lehman said she invited Frosh because he is, in her opinion, “one of our most effective leaders in the state of Maryland.”

“Given the political climate we’re living in under Trump, I recognize the attorney general is doing really, really important work, and a lot of it is directly related or in response to some of these policies of this administration, on criminal justice reform, immigrant issues,” she said. “I was just so fortunate that he was available to come tonight and really grateful that he was willing to spend his time here.”

Frosh didn’t pull any punches Wednesday, responding to a resident’s question with a litany of criticisms of Trump and his administration.

“He does not have respect for the law, he tweets lies, and he spews hate and sows fear. A lot of the stuff that he’s done, cumulatively or individually, may amount to crimes – high crimes and misdemeanors,” Frosh said. “I’m hoping we can find a way to get back to a decent and tolerant way of doing business and having our government work.”

He even hinted at the lawsuit to come, saying while he didn’t think the reckless endangerment suit the resident suggested would hold up in court, “there are a lot of other things (Trump) could be liable for.”

The suit was filed Monday by Frosh and Karl Racine, attorney general for the District of Columbia, alleging that Trump has violated portions of the Constitution. Specifically, the attorneys argue that Trump’s actions to distance himself from his business are inadequate because he still retains ownership of the global empire and he still receives updates about the business from his sons. The nature of the business could mean the Trump Corporation (and its owner, by extension) is receiving money from various foreign entities. This, Frosh and Racine argue, represents a violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which prohibits officeholders from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

A federal judge will have to decide if the case can proceed.

Frosh said this ability to file a lawsuit on behalf of the state’s residents without the permission of the governor was something he advocated for during the most recent General Assembly session.

“They passed legislation that allows our office to step in and sue the federal government when the actions of Donald Trump and his folks threaten our civil rights, threaten the environment,” he said.

Frosh said his office has joined lawsuits challenging the “Muslim ban,” aiming to protect the Affordable Care Act by fighting Trump's threat to cut off funding to states for the program, and several environmental cases.

But Frosh said most of his efforts as attorney general since his election to the post in 2014 are aimed at helping Maryland residents in more concrete ways.

“I have found the office of the attorney general to be a very effective instrument for protecting Marylanders, for improving their lives and for delivering justice,” said Frosh, who sees himself as “the people’s lawyer.”

He spoke about specific cases his office has prosecuted on behalf of residents, including shutting down sham charities that had deceived people about where there money was going and, now, working to get donors their money back, cracking down (with a $5.7 million fine) on payday lenders who take advantage of needy Marylanders, going after nursing homes that abuse or neglect their patients, and more.

“Last week, we got the largest settlement of any state against Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank was one of the banks that caused the mortgage foreclosure crisis in 2008 and the years following,” Frosh said. “We got them to agree to pay $95 million to our state and local jurisdictions to reimburse them for their investment losses. And $80 million of that $95 million is going to help folks reduce principal in mortgages, get lower interest rates and assist folks in meeting their home mortgage obligations.”

The attorney general’s office also offers mediation services and was able to return $10 million to consumers last year, Frosh said.

The sizeable crowd at the town hall reacted largely positively to Frosh and his message, but he did face at least one difficult question, from Bowie State University professor Nicholas Creary, who wanted to know about a pending legal dispute between BSU and the larger University System of Maryland.

“(A judge) found the state liable for duplication of programs at Maryland’s HBCUs at the predominately white institutions,” he said, with the result of a net loss of up to $2 billion since 1954. “My question to you is, will you counsel the University System of Maryland to accept (the) ruling and not appeal the fourth district court in Richmond? If so, why, and if not, why not?”

Frosh said that although he supported the legislation that allowed BSU to sue, his personal feelings about the case are secondary to the fact that as attorney general, he has to represent the state’s interests in legal matters. But he said he was committed to seeing a resolution to the suit.

“I cannot comment on what I would do or wouldn’t do. It wouldn’t be ethical for me to say what I would advise my client,” Frosh said. “I can say this: if there is a way that the case can be settled, and I can be the vehicle for that, nothing would make me happier.”

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