Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh is mild-mannered almost to a fault. But don’t mistake that for any weakness.
“This case is about the right of hundreds of millions of Americans to honest government,” Frosh said Monday as he stood by his D.C. counterpart, Karl Racine. The two joined forces to sue President Donald Trump over basically profiting from his presidency.
“Elected leaders who serve the people — and not their own financial interests — are the indispensable foundation of our democracy,” Frosh declared. “Our constituents must know that a president who orders their sons and daughters into harm’s way is not acting out of concern for his own business.”
It’s not the first suit to challenge Trump for failing to distance himself sufficiently from his private businesses, including the lavish Trump International Hotel here in Washington. But some legal experts say the Frosh-Racine case may have a better chance in the courts than others.
The two attorneys general are representing millions of constituents, not narrow interests. They are both Democrats but say the case is nonpartisan. Racine said they’d be suing if Oprah Winfrey or Mark Zuckerberg were doing the same thing as president.
The White House has pushed back on this and other suits, contending the president is not violating the U.S. Constitution’s provisions against enriching himself or herself from either domestic or foreign sources.
Monday’s news conference thrust the two local lawyers into national prominence. Both earlier have supported legal cases against the Trump attempts to impose an immigration ban. Frosh and Racine invited other attorneys general to join their effort.
Monday’s case also is not the first anti-Trump legal move right here in the nation’s capital. In March, the owners of the Cork Wine Bar, 1720 14th St. NW, sued President Trump and the Trump International, saying the hotel unfairly enriches Trump as president and draws business from other establishments, including theirs.
“What the president is doing is unethical and unfair, and that’s why we launched our lawsuit,” said co-owner Diane Gross. She said that the business received a lot of support for filing the suit. But in this day of open warfare on social media, she and her husband Khalid Pitts have also received abusive messages — “our share of negative emails and phone calls and people telling us they hoped our business failed.”
The case has bounced between local D.C. Superior Court and federal courts. It is awaiting a ruling on jurisdiction from U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon. You may recognize his name, because he is also overseeing a suit against the proposed Purple Line rapid transit route in suburban Maryland.
■ New top lawyer. The good news: President Trump finally has nominated someone to be U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. The not-so-good-news: She lives in Virginia.
If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Jessie Liu would replace interim U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips, a veteran of the office and one of the most knowledgeable about the inner workers of the massive federal office here.
Unlike other U.S. attorneys across the nation, the federal office here prosecutes major local crimes because the District is not allowed to fully run its own justice system. Liu currently serves as deputy general counsel for the U.S. Treasury Department. It’s helpful that she also had been an assistant U.S. attorney in the Washington office before entering private practice.
The District also is the only place we know of where the top prosecutor doesn’t have to live in the jurisdiction he or she oversees.
■ Pride Parade misstep? NBC4 first reported last weekend that the largest ever Capital Pride Parade was missing a hometown hero, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
It turns out Norton, a staunch advocate of civil rights for all, never got an invitation to join the parade supporting LGBTQ rights. She said she had marched in every parade for decades. This year she was told she would have to pay a $600 entry fee and at first she thought she was being waitlisted because the parade was full.
News4’s Twitter recounting prompted a lot of complaints from people who thought the Pride organizers had disrespected one of the community’s biggest supporters. It didn’t help that the Capital Pride organization is faulted by some for being too white.
Well, News4 inquired about the flap. It turns out that there may have been miscommunication about being waitlisted, but the organizer said the $600 fee is assessed against all participants and has been for years.
“We regret the confusion and look forward to Delegate Norton’s participation in future Capital Pride Parades,” wrote spokesperson Peter Morgan. We hope so. A lot of equal rights protections have been earned over many tough years by a lot of people standing up for those rights. Norton has been an ally, and we look forward to seeing her in the parade next summer. (The Notebook will check back in May 2018 just to be sure.)
And as we wrote about last week, there was an expected, brief disruption of this year’s parade by the “No Justice, No Pride” protest group. The activists contend neither police nor corporations should be allowed to march in the parade because they remain opposed to true equal rights and protections for people of color, transgender people and other minorities.
Advocates supporting the parade contend it has taken decades to win marriage and other rights and to get the military, the police and other institutions to end discrimination. They contend Capital Pride is right to welcome allies into the fold because true equal rights and anti-discrimination laws are still to be gained.
Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.