Donald Trump May Be In Violation Of The Constitution His First Day In Office
Donald Trump has much to content with as he gets inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States holding the historically lowest approval ratings of any incoming administration. Given his refusal to divest himself of his company, Trump International, he may be in violation of the Constitution the moment he takes the oath of office.
Our founders were quite concerned about the influence of foreign governments infiltrating our elected and appointed federal officials posing one of the biggest threats to our democracy. George Washington was clear in his farewell address after he stepped down from the Presidency following his second term, when he warned of foreign subversion of our democratic process.
It is these sentiments that led to the inclusion of the Emoluments Clause in the United States Constitution. Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the constitution states that no American officeholder 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.” An emolument refers to a form of material compensation whether it is money or other items that hold monetary value.
The intent of this clause is to minimize the influence a foreign government may have on the employees of our government through favor or bribery of our officials.
In the case of Trump, his international company of which he remains a majority shareholder as he enters office receives substantial income abroad from foreign governments and heads of state. One can even consider the foreign diplomats and dignitaries that stay in his Trump International Hotel in Washington DC contributing emoluments to Trump once he is sworn in as President.
It is unclear how such a case made against Trump would proceed with a Republican Attorney General (Jeff Sessions should he get confirmed), majorities in both houses of Congress, and a Supreme Court that will inevitably tip conservatively with Trumps future appointee. Whether or not this argument has legal legs in this environment, it will most certainly provide fodder for his critics that at the very least see glaring conflicts of interest that question his ability to lead without biased toward countries with which he has business interests.