Newly established powers of Maryland’s attorney general led to a federal lawsuit against President Donald Trump — and the praise or scorn of county lawmakers who were politically split on the virtue of his actions.
Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) was empowered by Democrats in the General Assembly this year to file lawsuits against the federal government.
The legislation was passed on a party-line vote in the General Assembly and among the county’s delegation.
Because the measure expanding Frosh’s powers was fashioned as a joint resolution, it could not have been vetoed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. A separate bill expanded funding for Frosh’s office to support the additional litigation; it was passed into law without the governor’s signature.
Delegate Kathy Afzali, R-District 4, was opposed to both measures.
She said she viewed the measures expanding Frosh’s powers as “a way to try to hit Gov. Hogan.”
Before the resolution, Maryland’s attorney general could file suit against the government — after seeking permission from the executive branch or the legislative branch. The measure passed by the General Assembly gave the broad go-ahead needed for Frosh to unilaterally decide which cases to pursue.
“This whole session was about them attacking Donald Trump. They weren’t focused on Maryland policy,” Afzali said of Democrats in the General Assembly. “They were focused on Washington and how much they hate the fact that they lost an election.”
Delegate Carol Krimm, D-District 3A, supported the legislation in Annapolis and said the lawsuit filed Monday could get to the bottom of questions that have surrounded Trump since he was first elected to office.
“I think this is a way to get the facts,” she said.
Afzali said Democrats’ questions about Trump’s business dealings are the result of their own lack of experience in owning and operating businesses. “We look at private-sector work as a positive,” she said of fellow Republican party members.
Delegate David E. Vogt III, R-District 4, opposed Frosh’s action on Monday.
“My opposition remains the same as it was when I voted against it: That’s not the attorney general of Maryland’s job,” he said.
But Delegate Karen Lewis Young, D-District 3A, said Frosh was stepping up where others were not.
“I’m proud of our attorney general for doing what individuals at the federal level have not done. Our attorney general is protecting the American Constitution and ethics laws and potential conflicts of interest,” said Lewis Young, who will have Frosh as a guest at a campaign fundraiser Tuesday night.
While Frosh used the power for the first time in March to join a lawsuit on Trump’s proposed travel ban, Monday’s action — made in conjunction with the D.C. attorney general — made a big splash and was featured in the network nighttime newscasts.
“It’s actually maddening. This is exactly the kind of garbage we didn’t want,” said Sen. Michael Hough, R-District 4. “All he’s doing is playing up to the left-wing base. ... He’s joining zany lawsuit after zany lawsuit.”
Hough said such actions have other repercussions in the state. For example, the Office of the Attorney General drafts opinions and advisory letters for lawmakers considering legislation.
“Because of the partisan nature of Brian Frosh, anything his office gives us is completely suspect, in my opinion,” Hough said.
Delegate William Folden, R-District 3B, said one source of his opposition to the expanded powers is that Frosh didn’t have them when he was elected. Now he’s exercising them without having been elected to do so, Folden said.
“We’ve created this loophole because we have this tyranny of the majority,” Folden said.
Lewis Young said she wouldn’t be surprised if Frosh also files action relating to health care if a repeal of the Affordable Care Act is successful.
Krimm said she has no regrets about the legislation and said it will serve to expand protections for her constituents.
“We didn’t put that piece of legislation in place to see him sit on his hands,” she said.