Donald Trump’s violating a second emoluments clause
By now, we should all be familiar with the Foreign Emoluments Clause (Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8), which prevents an officer of the United States from receiving money (an emolument), in any form, from an individual, corporation, or other agent funded by a foreign government. The clause prevents conflicts of interest that could pit the U.S. officer’s financial interest against the interests of the country he claims to represent. Donald Trump, whose D.C. hotel has attracted thousands of dollars from foreign governments, whose New York City tower houses the Bank of China (a state corporation), and whose buildings across the world receive rent from foreign government agencies, has undoubtedly violated the Foreign Emoluments Clause. This is impeachment-worthy.
But there’s a lesser-known clause that Trump also violates: The Domestic Emoluments Clause (Article 2, Section 2, Clause 7), which states that “The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased [sic] nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.”
In other words, the president’s compensation for his duties will not exceed the predefined presidential salary. He cannot receive any other emoluments from the government, thus preventing government officials at the federal and state level from tapping department or local coffers to buy favor with the president. This precludes the president from accepting, even indirectly, money that originates from the government treasury. It would pose problems, then, if a member of the Trump administration with salary paid by the government lived in a Trump hotel and, therefore, paid Trump — who retains a financial stake in the Trump Organization — an emolument originating from the United States.
Steven Mnuchin (Secretary of the Treasury), Linda McMahon (who heads the Small Business Administration), and Gary Cohn (economic adviser) all call the Trump DC hotel home during the work week. They are paid by the government; they use that pay to live in the Trump Hotel; Donald Trump has a financial stake in the Trump Hotel and profits from each dollar spent in the hotel. Therefore, Trump receives an emolument from the United States above and beyond his presidential salary.
Spokespeople for those individuals contend that since they pay a “fair market rate,” there are no constitutional problems. As Donald Trump likes to say: “Wrong!” Emoluments exist regardless of a transaction’s purported fair market value. The very definition of the word — its definition as understood by the Constitution’s framers — encompassed all financial transaction between two parties.
This constitutional violation is yet another example of a bourgeoning kleptocratic administration. Trump, by failing to divest from his business interests, stands to profit immensely from his position as president. He’s pocketed money from foreign governments and from individuals lusting to stay in his hotels and properties to, in any way, support their idol. And now he’s profiting from taxpayer dollars given to him by members of his cabinet.
Violating the Domestic Emoluments Clause is yet another reason to urge impeachment. Donald J. Trump has violated the letter and spirit of the Constitution and must be immediately removed from office. Call your representatives and senators and urge them to begin the impeachment process.