The Department of Justice (DOJ) has often enforced the emoluments clause of the United States Constitution as a means to protect any government official from accepting bribes from corrupting foreign powers. When such enforcement is conducted under President Donald Trump, however, the DOJ suddenly has a new double-standard: it’s okay when those bribes are laundered through the Trump businesses, not when it’s from pocket to pocket.
In a forthcoming article for the Indiana Law Journal, Washington University’s law professor Kathleen Clark found multiple federal filings which reveal the DOJ has made exemptions to the emoluments clause for private entities, which no doubt benefit the president and his wealthy family.
The original interpretation, Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution, reads:
“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.”
The new interpretation, Clark revealed:
“…would permit the president — and all federal officials — to accept unlimited amounts of money from foreign governments, as long as the money comes through commercial transactions with an entity owned by the federal official.”
According to a review from The Guardian, Clark’s article cites more than 50 legal opinions during their 150 years within the DOJ where this clause has been enforced universally, restricting any foreign bribes from reaching their government officials until direct approval from Congress. America’s founding fathers — despite all their faults — believed in holding all of their federal representatives to account instead of selling power to the highest bidder.
This new interpretation, which the filings show only passed in June 2017, would abandon these principles for a dangerous two-tier precedent — where there’s emolument accountability for watchdog lawmakers, but none such scrutiny for the dealmaker-in-chief. The decision, Clark states, is a clear response to recent lawsuits lodged by both US attorney generals and members of Congress. Our publication has been following the case against the Trump International Hotel in Washington for almost a year, from when it was originally taken to trial to when it was ruled to proceed after dismissal requests from the White House failed.
Aside there only being one gold-plated Trump© sign on Pennsylvania Ave, it’s easy to see how both the White House and The Trump Organization act as one. The president’s business currently maintains activities in various different countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Russia, which has rightfully caught the attention of Maryland’s A.G. Brian Frosh and Columbia’s A.G. Néstor Martínez, both of which currently interviewing employees for the organization and requesting searches into company records.
It’s no mystery why the company won’t hand over its own financial and communications documents without a legal fight. It’s simply due to the fact Saudi Arabia paid over $270,000 in “hotel fees” over an estimated three-month period “stay” at the Washington hotel. This is only one incident where the country has directly paid the president, negating the other 8 businesses maintained within their country and the 200 members of Congress who have also filed another lawsuit alleging Trump has conflicts of interest in at least 25 other countries.
After these particular payments were made, the administration suddenly changed its tune and joined Saudi Arabia lobby groups in opposing both the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) and the Stop Arming Terrorists Act (SATA), two measures which would have prevented the president’s controversial $110 billion Saudi weapons deal and would have discontinued the US support from the Saudi-led humanitarian disaster in Yemen. After pushback efforts from congressional lawmakers, who recently won a vote reinvoking the War Powers Resolution, Trump signalled he would use his veto power to prevent harming relations with his Saudi financiers.
During this same time, Guardian journalist Peter Stone cites how a 60-person Malaysian government delegation reportedly stayed at the same hotel during a time when the DOJ was conducting a “major corruption investigation” of Malaysian officials, including former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was in attendance during a White House meeting with the president. It’s no mistake how the business requires wealthy political sugar daddies to keep afloat.
According to another report from The Washington Post, a Saudi delegation travelling with the country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly overturned a two-year revenue decline at the property during his stay. Conflicting interests isn’t a bug of the administration and the organisation, but an outright business model. The Trump Organization’s narrative regarding this, however, has been widely inconsistent.
In a statement from Sheri Dillon, an attorney for the organization, it was declared the month Trump took office that the president “wasn’t accepting any payments in his official capacity” during his time in office. “Paying for a hotel room is not a gift or a present, and it has nothing to do with an office,” she wrote, suggesting there was nothing to see here regarding legal trouble. After a few months, this narrative changed.
The organisation soon admitted there was something to see, forcing themselves to sign a pledge that the president would donate any profits from foreign entities to the treasury. While the organization did sign a hefty $342,000 check to the government, watchdog groups have demanded documents for official calculations to be drafted by uncorrupted influences. This under-the-table behaviour started day one when Trump refused to fully divest from his businesses by allowing his two sons, Eric and Don Jr, run the empire while he maintains the highest office in the world, alongside the help of his daughter Ivanka and her Saudi-linked husband Jared Kushner working as his direct adviser.
The Trump reign over the public and private sector, intermingling without any accountability recourse, has allowed foreign powers in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Turkey and the Philippines to stay in very close proximity to the White House and pay their way into Trump’s ear. The corruption isn’t just limited to one man, it’s a family affair that all keeps the profits, diplomacy and military ventures booming. Now the administration is seeking to make such expenditures non-existence, solidifying the old words of former President Richard Nixon: “When the president does it, it’s not illegal”.
Thanks for reading! This article was originally published for TrigTent.com, a bipartisan media platform for political and social commentary, truly diverse viewpoints and facts that don’t kowtow to political correctness.
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