Trump: The ‘emoluments’ threat
President Trump is facing another “big, bitter, and consequential fight” that has nothing to do with the Mueller investigation, said David Shribman in The Globe and Mail (Canada). The other threat to his presidency is the issue of whether Trump’s ownership of Washington, D.C.’s Trump International Hotel, condominiums, and other businesses puts him in violation of the constitutional ban on presidents receiving “emoluments” from foreign governments. Last week, U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte set legal precedent by defining emoluments as any “profit, gain, or advantage” from a foreign entity, not just a bribe. He also refused Trump’s request to throw out a lawsuit filed by the attorneys general of the District of Columbia and Maryland that accuses Trump of illegally profiting from foreign delegations that frequent his hotel. “The political fallout from this ruling could be quite substantial,” said David Post in Reason.com. Trump will certainly appeal, but should he fail to block the discovery process, the public may finally get a good look at Trump’s financial records—including his closely guarded tax returns.
This is the kind of “pointless theater” that makes people hate Washington, said Howard Kurtz in Fox News.com. The lawsuit claims foreign guests “seeking favor with the administration” by staying at Trump’s five-star hotel unfairly hurt other hotels operating in the District. But let’s be real—“the suit is all about Trump.” This lawsuit is “based on zero precedent and novel interpretations of the Constitution,” said WashingtonExaminer.com in an editorial, and it’s unlikely the attorneys general will ultimately win. Nonetheless, it is true that Trump’s worldwide business empire “creates conflicts of interest that the president of the U.S. shouldn’t have.” There is an “appearance of impropriety” for him to be cashing checks from China, Saudi Arabia, and other countries while making decisions that affect those countries. “Not everything that’s legal is ethical.”
If Trump felt any obligation to the American people, said Greg Sargent in WashingtonPost.com, he would have “divested from his businesses at the outset” of his presidency. But Trump has chosen instead to brazenly blend “private and public interests at the expense of the country.” The Constitution’s framers worried about a corrupt leader like Trump, which is why—as Judge Messitte’s ruling states—they “made it simple” and banned emoluments “altogether.”