One thing is for sure: Donald Trump is no stranger to litigation.
His presidency is no different.
One complaint began the minute he put his hand on the Bible and recited the sacrosanct oath of office.
The Constitution‘s “emoluments clause,” a provision to prevent foreign governments’ bribery of federal officials, states:
“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State. –Article 1, section 9″
Last week, a federal judge in New York paved the way for a potential lawsuit when he pressed attorneys to explain how Donald Trump is not guilty of violating this clause when foreign government officials stay at Trump hotels.
The public policy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) that represents competing restaurateurs and hotel owners brought the case before District Judge George B. Daniels, arguing that by engaging in business with foreign officials interested in currying favor with the White House, Trump violates his oath.
Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyer, Brett Shumate, seeking to dismiss the case, counter-argued that it only constitutes a violation if an act is performed for payment.
Judge Daniels pressed that the president’s promise alone could constitute an emolument whether the president delivers an action to what is agreed, such as in a treaty, or not.
“They [the Constitution’s framers] wanted him to not take the promise of the money.”
Judge Daniels said in the next 30 to 60 days, he will rule on whether or not the case can proceed. If he allows it, the ensuing process could uncover significant business and personal finance documentation. Trump may even be forced to finally disclose tax returns and other information during discovery.
This suit is not the first pertaining to emoluments violations lodged against Trump.
In June, District of Columbia attorney Karl A. Racine (D) and Maryland attorney general Brian E. Frosh (D) filed a lawsuit against Trump, stating the president violated the emolument’s clause through his continual acceptance of millions of dollars and benefits from foreign governments since taking office.
That lawsuit cites the fact that Trump retains ownership of his company when he became president despite insisting in January he was transferring business assets to a blind trust his sons Eric and Donald Jr. would manage to avoid potential conflicts of interests.
Norman Eisen, former President Barack Obama’s chief White House ethics lawyer and CREW board chairman, said:
“In the emoluments clauses, we have these ancient air bags that were placed in the Constitution by the framers that are now being deployed. Trump is the framers’ worst-case scenario: a president who would seize office and attempt to exploit his position for personal financial gain with every governmental entity imaginable, across the United States or around the world.”
This is more than just the case of a president benefiting financially from his presidency, though. Racine and Frosh caution that unless we hold Trump accountable for the emoluments provision, Americans will never be able to trust the president is acting in their best interest politically and diplomatically. Recent decisions concerning Trump’s travel ban, ill-advised withdrawal from the Paris climate deal, and proposed tax cuts, raise eyebrows over Trump’s motives.
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