November 24, 2016 12:54 am -

It’s true that presidents can’t be held liable legally for conflicts of interest. However, there is something in the Constitution called the Emoluments Clause.

The Constitution says that no elected official can take an “emolument” of “any kind whatever” from a king, prince, or foreign state. The restriction, known as “the Emoluments Clause,” is intended to prevent political officials from receiving gifts from foreign governments…


There is not unanimity among scholars on the question of whether Donald Trump would be violating the Constitution by allowing foreign governments (and companies backed by foreign governments) from doing business with his private company.

But there does seem to be a fairly broad consensus forming. The issue comes down to the meaning of the “emolument” clause of the Constitution in Article I, Section 9. An “emolument” refers to compensation for a service or labor, according to the New York Times, which raises the question of whether foreign payments to Trump-owned businesses constitute forbidden emoluments…

…Richard Painter, a constitutional lawyer and George W. Bush’s former ethics lawyer, told ThinkProgress that the instant Trump’s business sells anything above “fair market value” to a foreign government that it’s clearly then considered a gift — and therefore a violation of the emoluments clause. (This was the same answer given to the Times by Norman Eisen, who was the chief White House ethics lawyer for Obama from 2009 to 2013. It’s also one three separate experts agreed with in interviews with me on Tuesday.)



D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.