Recent headlines reveal that LA’s City Council has become the latest authority to call for possible impeachment of Donald Trump. LA joins Cambridge, Berkeley, Richmond and Vermont as cities that all have each reached the conclusion that Donald Trump has violated the Foreign Emolument’s Clause of the US Constitution, and should be impeached.
The following is a summary of their report:
- The Emolument’s Clause of the US Constitution prevents a president from accepting financial benefits, including monetary payments and the purchase of goods and services, from a foreign power.The word “Emolument” is defined as “profit or gain arising from station, office, or employment: reward, remuneration, salary.” The word also has an older meaning of “advantage, benefit, comfort.” The express terms of the Constitution are: “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.”
- Foreign interference in the American political system was among the gravest dangers feared by the Founders of our nation and the framers of our Constitution. 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. In response to this practice, the framers included in the Constitution the Emoluments Clause of Article I, Section 9. It prohibits any “Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
- The many transactions between foreign states and the Trump empire have and/or will certainly result in divided or blurred loyalties that the Clause was enacted to prohibit. Given the lack of transparency in the Trump empire, and the refusal of Trump to provide his tax returns, the majority of his potential conflicts would be cloaked in secrecy, buried in technicalities, or impossible to prove definitively. This is exactly the reason for inclusion of the Emoluments Clause in the US Constitution. Rather than deal with potential impropriety in a case-by-case manner, or with ad hoc managerial walls between the President and his private interests, the Constitution forbids the very circumstances that give rise to such concerns in the first place. By imposing clear limitations, the Clause avoids a situation in which the American people must try to read the President’s or a foreign leader’s mind, searching for hints of private favoritism toward foreign powers, or of foreign attempts to seduce the American President into compromising our national interest for his private profit.
4. Examples of conflicts of which we are already aware include:
a. According to ABC News, Trump received a gift from China in the form of a 10-year trademark on his name for construction. The award marks a sudden reversal of fortunes for Trump, who had reportedly been trying to win the valuable rights to his name for a decade. Interestingly, the Chinese government came through for him one month after he took the oath of office and a week after his conversation with Chinese president Xi Jinping during which he endorsed the One China policy.
b. While serving as President-Elect, Mr. Trump has used that bully pulpit as a platform to attack those who have publicly criticized Trump-owned and Trump-branded businesses. For example, on December 15, 2016, less than 24 hours after Vanity Fair published an article describing Trump Grill in New York City as “the worst restaurant in America,” Mr. Trump attacked Vanity Fair and its editor on Twitter: “Has anyone looked at the really poor numbers of @VanityFair Magazine. Way down, big trouble, dead! Graydon Carter, no talent, will be out.”60
c. Trump has recently completed the Trump International Hotel, a major new project in Washington, D.C. and a new hot spot for foreign diplomats. As a former Mexican ambassador to the United States has candidly remarked, “The temptation and the inclination will certainly be there. Some might think it’s the right way to engage, to be able to tell the next president, ‘Oh, I stayed at your hotel.”
Speaking on the Senate floor, Senator Ben Cardin noted, “One diplomat was recorded as saying ‘Why wouldn’t I stay at his hotel blocks from the White House, so I can tell the new president, ‘I love your new hotel!’ Isn’t it rude to come to his city and say, ‘I am staying at your competitor’?”
The Kingdom of Bahrain already has decided to mark the seventeenth anniversary of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s accession to the throne by hosting a reception at the Trump International Hotel.
d. Since Mr. Trump’s election, long-delayed Trump projects have suddenly jump-started around the world, including in Argentina and Georgia.
e. Mere weeks before Mr. Trump spoke by phone with the President of Taiwan, dramatically altering American foreign policy, a businesswoman claiming to be associated with Mr. Trump’s conglomerate arrived in Taiwan and made inquiries about major new investments in luxury hotels.
f. Shortly before the election, President Duterte of the Philippines named Jose E.B. Antonio, a business partner of Mr. Trump and founder of a company behind Trump Tower Manila, as a special envoy to the United States.
g. After Mr. Trump spoke of banning Muslim immigrants, President Erdoğan of Turkey demanded that Mr. Trump’s name be removed from Trump Towers in Istanbul; but that demand abruptly ceased after Mr. Trump defended President Erdoğan’s brutal crackdown on Turkish dissidents.
h.The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China—owned by the People’s Republic of China—is the single largest tenant in Trump Tower. Its valuable lease will expire, and thus come up for re-negotiation, during Mr. Trump’s presidency.
i. Even as debates rage over American/Russian relations and Russian cyberattacks on U.S. interests and even on the recent presidential election, it has been reported that Russian financiers play a significant (albeit concealed) role in Mr. Trump’s organization.
j. Mr. Trump’s businesses owe hundreds of millions to Deutsche Bank, which is currently negotiating a multi-billion-dollar settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, a settlement that will now be overseen by an Attorney General and many other appointees selected by and serving at the pleasure of Mr. Trump.
k. Trump’s Business Partner in Philippines was named Special Envoy to US, The Philippine Star (Nov. 8, 2016).
l.Trump’s Loans From Troubled German Bank Pose Conflict of Interest, NPR (Dec. 1, 2016); Drew Harwell, Trump’s unusual conflict: Millions in debts to German bank now facing federal fines, Washington Post (Sept. 30, 2016).
m. Federal prosecutors in Brazil are in the middle of a sensitive (and now politically-freighted) criminal investigation into whether two pension funds that invested in the Trump Hotel in Rio de Janeiro were bribed to do so.
n. In Ireland, Mr. Trump wants to build a wall that would protect a coastline near his Trump International Golf Links course. Environmentalists, however, worry about an endangered species: the vertigo angustior snail. This fight will go to a national planning board, which may now find itself enmeshed in treacherous international politics relating to Mr. Trump.
These examples are but the tip of an iceberg of unknowable dimension. They suggest the remarkably wide range of situations in which a foreign power could seek to confer a benefit on Mr. Trump through his private interests. Wholly apart from any actual quid pro quo arrangements or demonstrable bribes or payoffs, the Emoluments Clause will be violated whenever a foreign diplomat stays in a Trump hotel or hosts a reception in one; whenever foreign-owned banks offer loans to Mr. Trump’s businesses or pay rent for office space in his buildings; whenever projects are jump-started or expedited or licensed or otherwise advantaged because Mr. Trump is associated with them; whenever foreign prosecutors and regulators treat a Trump entity favorably; and whenever the Trump Organization makes a profit on a business transaction with any foreign state or foreign
Consider the legal battles pending that directly affect Trump’s business interests:
a. Over ten cases challenging Trump labor practices are pending before the National Labor Relations Board—which has two vacancies, both to be filled by Trump.
b. The Internal Revenue Service is auditing Trump, who is now its chief.
c. The Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC is located in the Old Post Office and leased from the General Services Administration (GSA). Trump is both landlord and tenant (an obvious conflict), and also will be in violation of the lease, which bars elected officials from sharing in any benefit.
d. Trump owes several hundred million dollars to banks, but is now responsible for selecting the next Treasury Secretary and may influence interest rate policy.
watchdog group alleging he’d violated the “Emoluments Clause.”
It seems obvious that Trump has violated the Emoluments Clause, it is an impeachable offense, and it is only a matter of time before we determine what Court will have the acumen to uphold the U.S. Constitution.