Meanwhile, as of 10:11 am EST today, 818,172 people have joined in on a campaign to impeach Donald Trump… an unprecedented campaign which began right away on the day Trump was inaugurated.
While Trump supporters are bashing the movement as merely coming from a group of people who are doing it because they don’t like Trump and throwing a little temper tantrum like babies because they are mad that he won, the group’s reasoning at least on the surface appears to be a lot more complicated than that.
President Trump’s personal and business holdings in the United States and abroad present unprecedented conflicts of interest. Indeed, President Trump has admitted he has conflicts of interest in some cases. For example, the Trump Organization has licensing deals with two Trump Towers in Istanbul, and has received up to $10 million from developers since 2014. President Trump admitted recently that “I have a little conflict of interest, because I have a major, major building in Istanbul.”
Crucially, some of these business arrangements violate the U.S. Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause, which provides: “[N]o Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], 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.” The purpose of this provision is to prevent foreign influence or corruption. “Emoluments” from foreign governments include “any conferral of a benefit or advantage, whether through money, objects, titles, offices, or economically valuable waivers or relaxations of otherwise applicable requirements,” even including “ordinary, fair market value transactions that result in any economic profit or benefit to the federal officeholder.”
Many of the Trump Organization’s extensive business dealings with foreign governments, businesses owned by foreign governments, and other foreign leaders violate this ban.
It really is pretty straightforward… and it’s the same reason that Hillary Clinton had conflicts of interest during her tenure as Secretary of State ala the Clinton Foundation.
So one side admonished Hillary for her obvious conflicts of interests while the other ignored them, and the same holds true for Trump — one side is admonishing him for conflicts of interests, while his supporters make excuses for them.
That aside, technically presidents, congress, and even federal judges are at least exempt from Title 18 Section 208 of the U.S. code which says executive branch employees aren’t allowed to participate in government matters involving personal or family financial interest. That’s why they get away with so much b.s. as it is.
“It appears that presidents have mostly escaped the normal web of ethics and conflict-of-interest laws,” said Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan government accountability watchdog. Amey added that presidents are allowed to accept gifts in many cases, too.
It’s been this way since at least 1974, when the Justice Department issued a letter saying Title 18 Section 208 did not apply to the president. Congress expressly codified the exemptions in 1989.
Of course they did.
In the 1974 letter, the Justice Department said the legislative history of this conflict-of-interest provision indicated that it was never intended to apply to the president. Additionally, the Justice Department said placing conflict-of-interest laws on the president could constrain him in a potentially unconstitutional manner, though it did not give specific examples. (source)
Regardless of if it is the U.S. Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause or Title 18 Section 208, the ethical issues here are obvious. As much as people might not want to see it, the pro-impeachment crowd has actually raised more than a few good questions.
For starters, could this have anything to do with why Turkey and Saudi Arabia were so conspicuously absent from Trump’s travel ban? Will Trump’s Middle Eastern foreign policy boil down to playing favorites based on multi-million-dollar business holdings which (should) have nothing to do with being president of the United States?
It’s a tough position that puts some of Trump’s most enthusiastic pro-Constitution supporters into a bind.
Trump promised to resign from his companies and hand control over to his kids before taking up his post as president… but as of inauguration day, ProPublica reported that there was no record he had actually done so.
Three days later a few pieces of paperwork came out regarding a small handful of his businesses in Florida. White House Strategic Communication Director Hope Hicks then claimed Trump had resigned from all of his businesses but that the documents are “not public at this time”. Regardless, there is no evidence Trump has actually divested from any of his companies.
Meanwhile, even if his kids have temporarily taken the reigns of Trump Inc., the president obviously has a vested interest in his kids businesses anyway. Who, as a parent, wouldn’t?
Yet, Trump went so far as to insert himself personally on a national stage in his kid’s business dealings — even though he’s president. For more on that, here we have President Trump excoriating a business to his 24.5 million Twitter followers because it refuses to peddle his daughter’s clothing line:
My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!
Shortly afterward, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway peddled Ivanka Trump’s clothing line during an interview with Fox News from the White House briefing room.
With the official White House logo behind her head, Conway said, “I’m going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online,” she said, calling it “a wonderful line” and claiming she personally owns some of Ivanka Trump’s designs.
Should someone with the title “counselor to the president” be giving “free commercials” from the White House for the president’s daughter’s clothing line?
Supposedly Conway the counselor has been “counseled” on this, but can you imagine the outrage if Hillary got into the Oval Office and her “counselor” did the same for, say, Chelsea’s book?