A liberal group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has filed suit alleging that President Donald Trump began violating the “emoluments clause” of the U.S. Constitution the moment he took office because the businesses that bear his name are surely receiving some money from foreign governments, even though he has relinquished management control and elected to donate foreign profits at Trump owned hotels to the U.S. Treasury. The group is also promoting the claim that this “violation” is grounds for impeachment.
The Emolument clause of the Constitution says: “No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, 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.” (Article I, Section 9, Clause 8).
This allegation is without merit and is designed, in my opinion, as a gambit to stir up the leftists.
Fox News notes: “The plaintiffs claim President Donald Trump began violating the “emoluments clause” of the U.S. Constitution the moment he took office because the businesses that bear his name are surely receiving some money from foreign governments, even though he has relinquished management control and elected to donate foreign profits at Trump owned hotels to the U.S. Treasury. Forget that the revenue derives directly from his businesses, not his high office. The lawsuit is pure legal folly because the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that these kinds of circumstances do not violate the Constitutional emoluments prohibition. ..Ordinary business transactions are not emoluments. There must be a nexus between the payment and the office. An emolument arises when a pecuniary profit is derived from a discharge of the duties of the office.” (Hoyt v. United States, 51 U.S. 109)
Black’s Law Dictionary defines the term emolument as, “Any advantage, profit, or gain received as a result of one’s holding of office.” The original Webster’s Dictionary defines it as, “profit arising from office.” The Oxford English Dictionary offers a nearly identical definition. None of these interpretations apply to President Donald Trump nor the many businesses that predate his presidency. Any payments to his Trump Organization do not arise from his holding the office he just assumed days ago. To the contrary, any realized profit emanates from his businesses, not his presidency.
LawNewz notes: “”The so-called emoluments clause has never been interpreted to apply to fair value exchanges that have absolutely nothing to do with an office holder. No one would have thought, when the Constitution was written, that paying your hotel bill was an emolument instead it would have been considered a value for value exchange… not a gift.. not a title, not an emolument…,even though Trump doesn’t have to– he is going to voluntarily donate all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotels to the United States Treasury.”
John-Michael Seibler notes that several founding fathers ran businesses while they were in office. For instance:
George Washington (1789-1797) “left his nephew in charge of his highly successful business, required ‘weekly reports’ from his farm managers at Mount Vernon, and responded with detailed instructions. From his presidential office, he wrote business plans, including those for his gristmill, from which he exported flour and cornmeal to ‘England, Portugal, and the island of Jamaica.’”
Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) “maintained his farm and nail factory at Monticello and exported his tobacco crop to Great Britain.”
James Madison (1809-1817) “had a tobacco plantation in Montpelier.”
James Monroe (1817-1825) “grew timber, tobacco, and grain” on his 3,500- acre Highland plantation. “While Madison’s and Monroe’s farm records apparently have not survived, the export of farm products such as tobacco to England and elsewhere had been common since colonial times.”
The threat of impeachment is hollow because at any time Congress could retroactively grant permission for Trump’s businesses to act as they always have. Also, to forward a bill of impeachment requires a majority vote in the House of Representatives. Not likely.
Bill and Hillary get a pass from liberals on this question.
The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and similar groups were unconcerned when Hillary was Secretary of State (2009-2013) and Bill Clinton was receiving millions of dollars as “speaking fees” and “donations” to the Clinton Foundation.
During Hillary Clinton’s four years at the State Department, her husband was paid $47.7 million in speaking fees. As critics have noted, most of his highest paid speeches were given abroad between 2009 and 2013. (Source)
According to documents obtained by Judicial Watch in an ongoing Freedom of Information Act case, State Department officials charged with reviewing Bill Clinton’s proposed speeches did not object to a single one. Some of the speeches were delivered in global hotspots like Saudi Arabia, and were paid for by entities with business or policy interests in the U.S. (Source)
During Hillary Clinton’s time at the State Department, Bill Clinton also gave four speeches in the United Arab Emirates, earning $1.1 million. For two speeches in Egypt, he earned $425,000.
UAE-linked entities also have donated at least $2.7 to $11.5 million to the Clinton Foundation, and Egyptian entities have donated at least $250,000 to $750,000. (Source)
In my opinion, these liberal lawyers are gaming the system for political gain.
For a brief history of the Emolument Clause, see this article from the Heritage Foundation.