Elizabeth Warren leads Democrats' push to block Donald Trump's conflicts of interests by invoking Emoluments Clause of Constitution

Trump must "divest his financial interests & place them in a blind trust," Warren said, introducing her bill

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published December 15, 2016 6:45PM (EST)


As President-Elect Donald Trump cancels his first post-election press conference meant to address potential conflicts of interests while nominating Cabinet members with their own egregious conflicts of interests, Elizabeth Warren is leading a group of Democrats in an effort to push-back by implementing the clause in the U.S. Constitution specifically written to prevent such improper webs.

The Massachusetts senator took to Twitter Thursday to outline her intentions to reinforce an obscure provision in the Consitution in January, as Trump is set to take office. The bill, co-sponsored by Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin, Chris Coons, Dick Durbin and Jeff Merkley, would require the president and vice president to “disclose and divest” any potential financial conflicts of interest:

"This has been the standard for previous presidents," Warren said in a statement. "[O]ur bill makes clear the continuing expectation that President-elect Trump do the same."

While no law obliges Trump to sell his assets or place them in a blind trust (though nine of the 12 presidents since World War II have done so), Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the constitution states that no U.S. officeholder 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.”  For decades, government agencies have used this clause to guide their ethics rulings.

Now, foreign governments are holding holiday events at Trump's hotel in Washington D.C.’s historic Post Office Pavilion, which is owned by the federal government. An arrangement that will be unlawful as soon as Trump takes office.

So far, Trump's only addressed his potential conflicts of interest by announcing that his two adult sons would lead the Trump Organization while he is president, but even that has sparked major concern as his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, have also attended crucial transition meetings.

According to Boston Magazine, Warren's bill would not only reinforce the Emoluments Clause, applying it explicitly to the president and vice president, but also require Trump’s appointees to recuse themselves from any matters involving his financial conflicts of interest as they appear before their respective agencies.

Warren and the Democratic senators' concern echoed those expressed by a Democrat in the House earlier this week.

“Each day, new entanglements between Mr. Trump’s business interests and American foreign policy are revealed," New York Rep. Jerry Nadler said in a statement Thursday.

Nadler called upon members of the Senate to block all of Trump's Cabinet appointments unless the real estate mogul submits to full divestment and disclosure from his personal assets.

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Trump's Conflicts Of Interests