President Trump on Monday afternoon ostentatiously complimented D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) — who alleges in an ongoing lawsuit that Trump is violating anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution and just last week became the third law enforcement official to subpoena documents from the president’s inaugural committee.
“I feel like you’re — like I know you,” Trump said to Racine during remarks at the White House before a gathering of the National Association of Attorneys General.
“I feel like I know you as well, Mr. President,” Racine replied from the front row of the audience.
The pair’s bizarre verbal volley left onlookers scratching their heads. Racine has been among the most aggressive of the multiple Democratic attorneys general confronting the Trump administration.
Last year, Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) sued Trump, asserting that payments by foreign governments to his businesses — notably the Trump International Hotel in Washington — violate the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which prohibits U.S. officeholders from taking anything of value from foreign leaders.
Last week, the president’s inaugural committee was hit with a subpoena from Racine’s office for documents related to the Trump Organization or Trump International Hotel. Racine’s civil investigation of the committee appears to focus on whether the inaugural committee violated nonprofit regulations by enriching the president’s business interests.
It follows on the heels of subpoenas from the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York and the New Jersey attorney general’s office.
The exchange between Trump and Racine began when the president was discussing the First Step Act, a bipartisan criminal justice bill that Trump signed in December.
After thanking the association for its help with the bill, Trump singled out Racine.
“And a special thanks to Attorney General Karl Racine. Where’s Karl? Karl? Karl?” Trump said from his podium, pointing to Racine.
“Hi, Karl,” he continued. “Great job. Thank you very much. You were very helpful. Everybody said — Karl — I feel like you’re — like I know you. That’s pretty good.”
“I feel like I know you as well, Mr. President,” Racine said, a line that brought laughter and applause.
In an interview after the event, Racine would not expand on the meaning of his response to Trump.
He said the president’s address had capped a meeting between attorneys general of both parties and White House officials, including counselor Kellyanne Conway.
Among the topics of discussion, Racine said, were programs to reduce recidivism in the District and efforts by North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein (D) to address the opioid epidemic.