In a confusing moment during an address to the the National Association of Attorneys General at the White House on Monday, Donald Trump went off-script to lavish praise on Karl Racine, the attorney general of the District of Columbia — seemingly unaware that Racine is currently leading a major lawsuit against him for corruption and violating the United States Constitution, as The Washington Post reported.
In his remarks, Trump discussed the First Step Act, a bill that was passed earlier this year with broad bipartisan support and signed by Trump that has been called, by Vox, “the most significant criminal justice reform legislation in years.”
Trump paused to single out Racine for his role in the leadership of the NAAG, which was instrumental in passing the bill. “And a special thanks to Attorney General Karl Racine,” the president reportedly said. “Where’s Karl? Karl, Karl? Hi, Karl. Great job. Thank you very much, you were very helpful,” Trump said, as quoted by the DCist local news site.
Racine has been one of the country’s most aggressive attorneys general when it comes to pursuing legal action against Trump. Alongside Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, Racine is currently suing Trump for allegedly violating the Constitution’s “emoluments” clause, the section of the Constitution that, as The Post explains, prohibits federal officials from accepting payments from foreign governments.
Also, on February 27, The Post reported, Racine slapped Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee with a subpoena for documents showing how the committee spent the $100 million it raised, which was more than twice the amount raised for President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration.
“Everybody said Karl, I feel like you’re — like I know you,” Trump said to Racine, who was sitting in the front row at Monday’s White House event. “That’s pretty good.”
“I feel like I know you as well,” Racine responded.
TRUMP to D.C. Attorney General KARL RACINE: "I feel like you’re — like I know you."— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) March 4, 2019
RACINE: "I feel like I know you as well."
(Racine is leading the ongoing emoluments lawsuit against Trump.)https://t.co/QCkjqoT9aQ pic.twitter.com/gKYgCtpclE
But following the event, Racine declined to explain what he meant by his comment in response to Trump’s praise, according to The Post.
The 55-year-old Racine was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, but emigrated to Washington, D.C., with his family when he was just 3-years-old, according to an interview on the legal site Bisnow. He won Washington, D.C.’s first-ever election for attorney general in 2014, according to The Post. Previously, the district’s top attorney had been appointed by the city’s mayor.
In December a federal judge put a temporary halt to the emoluments lawsuit brought by Racine and Frosh according to The Post. But Racine called the order “a procedural one and not a ruling on the merits of our historic lawsuit.” Oral arguments in the case are set to take place later this month.