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Red/Blue America: Trump will have problems, emoluments not one of them

Is Trump already running afoul of the Constitution? Donald Trump won't officially become president until January, but critics are already raising concerns that he is violating a constitutional clause meant to keep foreign countries from buying in...

Is Trump already running afoul of the Constitution? Donald Trump won’t officially become president until January, but critics are already raising concerns that he is violating a constitutional clause meant to keep foreign countries from buying influence with U.S. officials.The Emoluments Clause says U.S. officeholders cannot accept presents, gifts or fees from any “king, prince or foreign state.” Yet reports suggest that foreign diplomats have been encouraged to stay at Trump’s new hotel in Washington, D.C., where suites run up to $20,000 per night.Could foreign states use such dealings to influence Trump’s behavior in office? Is the hotel pitch a sign Trump will use the Oval Office to further enrich himself and his family? It’s tempting to resort to snark when considering the question of whether Donald Trump has violated his oath of office before even taking it.
After all, if the Constitution’s provision for an Electoral College is an antiquated and outmoded stricture, why couldn’t the Emoluments Clause be dismissed similarly? We live in a globalized world. Trump is a businessman with holdings all over the place. The new hotel is supposed to be pretty nice. What of it?And if, as progressives never tire of reminding us, the Constitution is a “living, breathing document” that should “adapt to ever-changing circumstances,” then surely the Constitution can “adapt” to President Trump, just as it adapted to President Barack Obama’s unprecedented expansion of executive power.Obama had “a pen and a phone” that he used to overcome a Congress that stubbornly refused to roll over for his policy agenda. Trump has hotels. Again, what of it?So, does Trump have an emoluments problem or not? I’m not an expert, but Seth Barrett Tillman is. Some of his writing on the subject appears on the National Constitution Center’s website.His conclusion? The “foreign emoluments clause” doesn’t apply to the president. His reason? George Washington set the precedent.“Traditionally, precedents established by President George Washington and his administration carry great weight,” Tillman writes. “President George Washington accepted and kept two diplomatic gifts, but he neither asked for nor received congressional consent. Washington’s conduct was widely reported in the press. So it would seem to indicate that he, his administration, Congress, and the public did not believe that the Clause applied to the presidency.”Controversy over? No, not really. As Tillman pointed out in an interview with a legal affairs news site, Trump is still subject to various bribery laws and rules on gift-taking. But, Tillman said, Trump’s critics are “constitutionalizing an issue that should not be constitutionalized.”President Trump will almost certainly have a constitutional crisis or two of his own. But the emoluments brouhaha isn’t it. Ben Boychuk is managing editor of American Greatness. Reach him at bboychuk3@att.net.Is Trump already running afoul of the Constitution?Donald Trump won’t officially become president until January, but critics are already raising concerns that he is violating a constitutional clause meant to keep foreign countries from buying influence with U.S. officials.The Emoluments Clause says U.S. officeholders cannot accept presents, gifts or fees from any “king, prince or foreign state.” Yet reports suggest that foreign diplomats have been encouraged to stay at Trump’s new hotel in Washington, D.C., where suites run up to $20,000 per night.Could foreign states use such dealings to influence Trump’s behavior in office? Is the hotel pitch a sign Trump will use the Oval Office to further enrich himself and his family?It’s tempting to resort to snark when considering the question of whether Donald Trump has violated his oath of office before even taking it.
After all, if the Constitution’s provision for an Electoral College is an antiquated and outmoded stricture, why couldn’t the Emoluments Clause be dismissed similarly? We live in a globalized world. Trump is a businessman with holdings all over the place. The new hotel is supposed to be pretty nice. What of it?And if, as progressives never tire of reminding us, the Constitution is a “living, breathing document” that should “adapt to ever-changing circumstances,” then surely the Constitution can “adapt” to President Trump, just as it adapted to President Barack Obama’s unprecedented expansion of executive power.Obama had “a pen and a phone” that he used to overcome a Congress that stubbornly refused to roll over for his policy agenda. Trump has hotels. Again, what of it?So, does Trump have an emoluments problem or not? I’m not an expert, but Seth Barrett Tillman is. Some of his writing on the subject appears on the National Constitution Center’s website.His conclusion? The “foreign emoluments clause” doesn’t apply to the president. His reason? George Washington set the precedent.“Traditionally, precedents established by President George Washington and his administration carry great weight,” Tillman writes. “President George Washington accepted and kept two diplomatic gifts, but he neither asked for nor received congressional consent. Washington’s conduct was widely reported in the press. So it would seem to indicate that he, his administration, Congress, and the public did not believe that the Clause applied to the presidency.”Controversy over? No, not really. As Tillman pointed out in an interview with a legal affairs news site, Trump is still subject to various bribery laws and rules on gift-taking. But, Tillman said, Trump’s critics are “constitutionalizing an issue that should not be constitutionalized.”President Trump will almost certainly have a constitutional crisis or two of his own. But the emoluments brouhaha isn’t it.Ben Boychuk is managing editor of American Greatness. Reach him at bboychuk3@att.net.

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