The Emolument Clause on Trump’s presidency

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The Emolument Clause on Trump’s presidency

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The Emoluments Clause is a piece of the Constitution written by the Founding Fathers that outlaws any “Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust” from gaining “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign state,” with the provision that Congress may grant permission to an individual to accept a specific gift or payment.

Nonprofit public policy organization The Brookings Institute warns of the danger the Emoluments Clause is intended to protect against. “One common tactic that foreign sovereigns, and their agents, used to influence our officials was to give them gifts, money, and other things of value…Given the vast and global scope of Trump’s business interests, many of which remain shrouded in secrecy, we cannot predict the full gamut of legal and constitutional challenges that lie ahead,” the institute said.

Essentially, this clause makes it unconstitutional for Trump to continue to accept payments above fair market price, gifts, tax incentives, permit grants, and other forms of emoluments from other governments both directly and through the Trump Corporation. The clause is a necessary piece of the constitution as it is intended to protect the U.S. Government from a controlling influence by outside forces.

Adam Liptik of The New York Times explains Trump Corporation’s inextricable ties to foreign governments. “Mr. Trump’s companies do business with entities controlled by foreign governments and people with ties to them. The ventures include multimillion-dollar real estate arrangements — with Mr. Trump’s companies either as a full owner or a ‘branding’ partner — in Ireland and Uruguay. The Bank of China is a tenant in Trump Tower and a lender for another building in Midtown Manhattan where Mr. Trump has a significant partnership interest,” Liptik said.

Because the interests of Trump Corporations most often differ from the best interests of the U.S. as a political and economic entity, the Emoluments Clause has elicited apprehension from citizens, a profound fear from politicians (on both sides of the aisle), and is likely to provoke some action by Congress to prevent damage resultant from this conflict of interest.

To avoid violating the Emoluments Clause, Trump announced that he plans to assign ownership of his corporations and assets to his two eldest sons and a Trump employee in a trust. The ethicality of this action is described as, “a non-solution,” and “non-blind trust,” by many leading U.S. ethics lawyers as those he’s picked to be responsible for his assets are inextricably subject to his influence. This allows Trump to maintain great influence and decision power over his assets thereby simultaneously circumventing direct violation whilst continuing to engage in a deeply unethical conflict of interest never before seen within a U.S. presidency. Conversely, Ivanka Trump recently sold her stock in Trump’s corporations, and she resigned from her executive position at her own jewelry and fashion corporation to avoid violating the Emoluments Clause indicative a powerful position for her within her father’s administration.

The Electoral College had the option on Dec. 19, as in every election, to change their votes and not elect Donald Trump because of the Emoluments Clause, but did not. The solution outlined by law professors and Trump adversaries is impeachment by Congress if the conflict of interest become damaging. Democrats in Congress have already begun to take action against Trump’s coming presidential powers by putting pressure on Trump’s Attorney General appointment Jeff Sessions in the Senate Judiciary Hearing on Jan. 10. Though he is likely to be confirmed, these efforts by the Democrats are likely just the beginning of their increasingly important efforts to avoid damage to U.S. interests by Trump’s possible violations of the Constitution.