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This week in Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest: He violated the emoluments clause at noon Friday

We need to have a talk about the emoluments clause, among other things


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Matthew Rozsa
January 21, 2017 11:30am (UTC)

Now that President Donald Trump has actually happened, let's discuss one of the great legal ramifications of this not-so-brave new world — the president's abundant conflicts of interest.

President Trump violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution the moment he took a dollar in profit from foreign sources.

Trump may like to brag about mastering the art of the deal (which he didn't write), but the emoluments clause of the Constitution is not negotiable.

"A president is not permitted to receive cash and other benefits from foreign governments," Norman Eisen, former special counsel on ethics and government reform to President Barack Obama, said on NPR Thursday. "And yet, Donald Trump is getting a steady flow of them around the world and right here in the United States."

In case you think Eisen is speaking from some dastardly liberal bias, the former chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, Richard Painter, has the same opinion. "The president needs to focus on protecting the United States and American interests in a very dangerous world," Painter said. "I really hope that President Trump takes the steps he needs to, to be free of conflict of interest in that endeavor."

Just to be clear, here is the emoluments clause of the Constitution in full (Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8): "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."

Good luck, President Trump.

The Trump Organization is expanding a resort in Scotland.

Even though the United States will need to negotiate a new trade deal with the United Kingdom now that it has left the European Union, this isn't stopping Trump's business (from which he has refused to fully divest himself) from expanding a golf course near Aberdeen, Scotland. Although Trump's original proposal for his Scotland resort included a 450-room hotel, 500 luxury homes, 900 timeshare apartments, and a second golf course, recent reports suggest that he is going to double the timeshares and homes in this location. And this doesn't even begin to cover the disastrous environmental impact his real estate projects have had in Scotland.

On Thursday, Trump resigned from his post at the golf course, according to filings with the UK government.

Indonesian billionaire Hary Tanoesoedibjo is attending Trump's inauguration even as he works on real estate deals with Trump's sons.

Should we be concerned that Hary Tanoesoedibjo, an Indonesian billionaire who is working closely with Trump's sons on real estate projects in Bali and West Java, is also going to attend Trump's inauguration? Or that the corporate secretary of the media and real estate conglomerate group he founded mentioned in the same breath that he will attend the inauguration and also (presumably coincidentally) have a meeting to "bolster some business deals"? Nah, it probably means nothing at all, coming from a man who, as president-elect, has repeatedly said that a president can't have conflicts of interest.

 


Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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