Trump’s tangled corrupt business could be accused. Although Trump has denied the active management of its commercial interests, it has not stripped them. That means he still owns them, and still benefits from his success.
Trump and his apologists make the absurd argument that a president “cannot have conflicts of interest.” Of course, a president may have conflicts of interest.
What they are really trying to say is that the president, even if he has flagrant conflicts of interest, is, however, exempt from a single federal statute that prohibits employees of the executive branch from engaging in matters in which they have financial interests. Well, bully him.
Being exempt from a federal statute does not mean that the president is exempt from all laws that involve conflicts of interest. Hopefully the picturesque Nixonian concept that “If the president does, it is not illegal” has laughed in serious consideration.
Laws that a president is not exempt from including bribery and the clause of emoluments of the Constitution of the United States.
Bribery is quite self-explanatory. It is a money or something else promised to influence the judgment of a person. Say, a president.
A president has enormous power to make decisions that can profoundly affect businesses around the world. If the president also owns companies around the world, and benefits from his success, he has the power to shape the policy in a way that lends his own pockets. If you do so in accordance with an understanding, even tacit, that will change a political favor for a financial advantage - in other words, a quid pro quo - is accepting a bribe.
It is not easy to try a quid pro quo, but it is not impossible. Judicial decisions, civil and criminal, are made every day determining the intention of a person. Evidence of the intention to participate in a quid pro quo could include a sudden change in a long-standing policy decision that turns out to be financially rewarding for the person making the change. Since Trump does not appear to have long standing positions, this could be particularly difficult in his case. But there are other ways to get there, and again, do not underestimate it.
The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution of the United States is a different animal. That somewhat arcane constitutional provision has been animated, after centuries of sleep, by Donald Trump himself. His rebirth is one of Trump’s many gifts for our public speech.
The Emoluments Clause states that no person holding office (including the office of President) may accept “any gift, Emolument, Office or Title, of any kind, from any King, Prince or foreign State.”
OK, for those of you who prefer simple English, it means the president can not accept gifts from foreign powers.
The Emoluments Clause is narrower than bribery laws and, at the same time, easier to prove. It is narrower because it only applies to gifts of foreign powers, not of individuals or domestic sources. It is easier to try because it does not require a quid pro quo.
The relevant provisions of the Clause were designed to isolate American ambassadors from being corrupted by gifts from their foreign hosts. It forbids receiving anything of value from a foreign power. It does not require anything to be given in return.
It is unclear if Trump has violated the Emoluments Clause, it is possible. A lawsuit has been filed and it is a breach of the Clause when a Trump-owned hotel rents space to a foreign embassy, among other things. That may sound like little potatoes, but with all of Trump’s possessions, other cases will arise.
And it is interesting to note that one of the main obstacles to any lawsuit claiming a violation of the Emoluments Clause, the ability of a private plaintiff to convince the court that it has a “footing” to enforce the claim, disappears in a process of dismissal. Certainly, Congress, the branch of our government mandated by the Constitution with responsibility for monitoring the illegal conduct of a president, has the right to assert a violation of the Constitution by a president.
Of course, you would know much more about Trump’s financial transactions and entanglements if we could see your tax returns. Trump will not release them voluntarily, but the disclosure could be compelled by Congress, or they could be leaked by someone who already has them. The corrupt numbing of Trump’s business could be accused
Although Trump has denied the active management of its commercial interests, it has not stripped them.