With Donald Trump’s inauguration around the corner it seems the President-elect has yet to tie up loose ends that put him in clear violation of the constitution before he takes office. The Constitution’s “Emoluments Clause,” provides that “no 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.” But his ownership of his new D.C hotel close to the white house, foreign dignitaries and diplomats have already voiced their intentions to stay there.
“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!’” said one diplomat from an Asian nation. “Isn’t it rude to come to his city and say, ‘I am staying at your competitor?’”
The incoming president, in other words, is actively soliciting business from agents of foreign governments. Many of these agents, in turn, said that they will accept the president-elect’s offer to do business because they want to win favor with the new leader of the United States.
If Trump’s campain tactics were any indications of how he will work anything in his favor, he may just violate the constitution and get away with it- all he has to do is rewrite the rules, which he has the power to do so come January 20th.
As Emily Jane Fox for Vanity Fair writes:
As Donald Trump inches closer to the Oval Office, much has been said about how he will unwind himself from the dealings he’s made in his glass office about 200 miles north in Trump Tower. A number of Democrats have called for the president-elect to start addressing potential conflicts of interests by selling his new D.C. hotel, the building from which he is leasing from the federal government (the lease explicitly states that it cannot be held by an elected official). More broadly, ethics experts and lawmakers have said that Trump’s plan to turn over his global real-estate business to his two sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, creates a different set of issues. Many have suggested that the only true way to avoid such ethical questions is for Trump to divest from the Trump Organization entirely.
Newt Gingrich, former House Speaker and current Trump booster, has a different plan. He acknowledges that his billionaire buddy may have a tough time unravelling himself from his multi-billion-dollar business. “It’s a very real problem,” Gingrich said in an NPR interview on Monday. “I don’t think this is something minor. I think certainly in an age that people are convinced that government corruption is widespread both in the U.S. and around the world, you can’t just shrug and walk off from it.” His solution, though, is perhaps the very definition of government corruption. He advised that should the president-elect run up against issues with ethics laws, he should just change those laws in order to suit him, using his presidential pardon powers to absolve a multitude of potential sins.
“In the case of the president, he has a broad ability to organize the White House the way he wants to. He also has, frankly, the power of the pardon,” he said. “It’s a totally open power. He could simply say, ‘Look, I want them to be my advisers. I pardon them if anyone finds them to have behaved against the rules. Period. Technically, under the Constitution, he has that level of authority.”
Aside from the fact that this is a completely unreasonable and unethical reading of the U.S. Constitution—and one that Gingrich’s co-guest on NPR noted would make him closer to a king than a U.S. president—the problem with Gingrich’s take is also that it assumes conflicts of interests could arise in the future. The fact of the matter is that they’ve already begun.
ThinkProgress reported on Monday that the Embassy of Kuwait allegedly canceled a contract it had signed with the Four Seasons for an event it usually holds at the Georgetown hotel after it received pressure from the Trump Organization to move it to the aforementioned Trump International Hotel, just a few blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. The embassy canceled with the Four Seasons, ThinkProgress noted, just after The Washington Post ran a story about the hotel hosting diplomats for an event at which it was actively encouraging diplomats to patronize the hotel. “Believe me, all the delegations will go there, ” one diplomat told the Post. A couple weeks later, Politico reported that Bahrain was planning to host a reception at Trump’s hotel in early December. The Republic of Azerbaijan decided to co-host a Hanukkah party there, as well.
Not all conflicts center around the 263-room hotel, though it may seem like a hotbed for them. Further south, in Texas, the Center for Public Integrity reported, a nonprofit run by Donald Jr. and Eric is offering access to the president-elect in exchange for million-dollar donations to conservation charities. Donors have the opportunity to win a private reception and photo opportunity with Trump and a multi-day hunting or fishing expedition with his two sons, according to the report. That’s a conflict very much in line with the kind of trouble the Trump children already ran into last week, when Eric and Ivankacaught heat for auctioning off a coffee date with the eldest Trump daughter to benefit St. Jude’s. (The auction was pulled after The New York Times noted that several bidders were using the opportunity to gain access to the incoming First Daughter for their own individual benefit.)
At the time, Eric told the Times that the family is still adjusting to the “new world” in which they’ve found themselves in. And to be fair, the Trumps are indeed entering a different sphere, one that, frankly, they probably did not anticipate or prepare enough to enter, despite campaigning to be part of that world for 16 months. It’s a complicated, unprecedented thing to do—unspooling a decades-old, billion-dollar family-business empire in a matter of weeks.
But you know who has to make a lot of really tricky, unexpected, gravely important decisions all the time, every day, without the benefit of some adjustment time? The president of the United States. That is the job. Complex, world-altering problems cross that desk. The president is tasked with making a choice.
Most presidents don’t get to say, “Hey, we’re going to address this potentially unconstitutional conflict in a press conference on December 15,” as Trump did on Twitter, and then cancel that press conference. His advisers noted that pulling together a Cabinet has taken up more time than anticipated, so Trump needed a few more weeks to figure it all out. Thoughtfulness and not rushing through vital decisions is a good thing, of course. Avoiding a tough call for a few weeks, potentially after he is already in office, is a disaster for the U.S. democratic system and for the American people, who deserve to know if their president is going to use his office to pressure diplomats to frequent his hotels or change ethics laws to suit his whims.
But with the exception of the Emoluments Clause, which provides a pathway to impeachment if Trump seeks gifts from foreign agents, few laws govern the president’s behavior, and Gingrich is right that we are in uncharted territory. It’s on Trump to do the right thing, to be transparent and forthcoming about his businesses and his plans. For the record, 146 days have passed since his last press conference. Trump has still not released his tax returns.
As the things that could impeach Trump pile up, one has to wonder if he will even step into the Oval office on January 20th. Surely enough, just as he won with a crushing upset, he will enter the office the same way. The American people really should not treat his blaze nature in his dealings lightly, if Trump is allowed to manipulate the constitution, and the laws of the nation in his family’s favour and benefit, as the article said- we will be witness to the creation of a dynasty, and be ruled by the likes of a King rather than a president.
(Article By Tasha Sharifa)