Category Archives: Constitution

donald trump free press

Donald Trump and The Free Press

Donald Trump: An American in Name Only, Part 1

President Donald Trump holds very few patriotic or American beliefs – unless ignorance and obtuseness now define the American character.  His principles don’t originate from natural rights or a devotion to liberty.  They stem from a malicious character hooded in hate, versed in vengeance, and shrouded in stupidity.

For a man whose oath of office calls for him to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States,” Trump deviates from the words and rights enshrined by our founding document at every twist and turn of his volatile presidency, a continuation of his assaults on the Constitution and democratic norms that so defined his campaign (and, embarrassingly, appeal).

Of all constitutional protections, Donald J. Trump has most assailed a First Amendment right integral to the creation of our country and its preservation: The free press.  We cannot understate the vital importance the free press plays in maintaining a healthy Republic.  Voters unversed in issues and unaware of candidate beliefs and character cannot be expected to make informed decisions.  Transparency, a fundamental democratic tenet, withers without a hounding press that demands information from officials, elected and otherwise, and holds administrations to account.

Perhaps Thomas Jefferson said it best.

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”

Trump’s disdain for the press knows no bounds.  He frequently dismisses valued news organizations as “fake news” simply because they publish articles critical of him and his presidency.  However, for all of his verbal attacks, and angry early-morning or late-night tweet tirades, Trump cannot point to specific instances of actual “fake news.”  The president, on whom the burden of proof falls, fails the first step of constructing a persuasive argument – supporting his assertion.

Most recently, Trump’s pointed to a retracted CNN article as evidence that network spews nonsense designed solely to degrade him.  But that obviously misses the mark.  CNN retracted its story and issued a humbling apology which the story’s subject accepted.

Three employees then resigned, a clear sign of journalistic integrity and accountability that demonstrates CNN commitment to providing its readers and viewers with the truth.  Its admission of error actually boosts its credibility: Rather than wrongly standing by its story and acting defiant in the face of evidence, it took actions to resolve a wrong and correct the record.  That’s integrity and the exact opposite of how a “fake news” network would react when confronted with its mistake.

Trump doesn’t realize that (or he does, but his frustrations with critical coverage still provoke him into fits of uncontrollable rage in which he lashes out with little regard for the deleterious effects he has on public discourse and the institutions that make democracy possible).

Instead, he retreats into the dens of Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, or Breitbart.  The former recently denigrated himself into the pits of hell by peddling the nonsensical and wholly debunked conspiracy relating to DNC staffer Seth Rich’s murder, alleging – without proof and in the face of official police statements and findings – that the Clintons had him murdered.  Fox, for its part, has done little to ensure its viewers and online readers understand that Hannity’s delusions, as with all delusions, fly in the face of all evidence.

Alex Jones, on whose show Donald Trump has spoken and who Trump called shortly after winning the presidency, lambasts 9/11 as an “inside job,” believes the government carried out the Sandy Hook shooting, and fervently promotes every other lunatic conspiracy imaginable.  His outlet has no integrity, no accountability, and no regard for the truth.  If anything should be classified as “fake news,” it’s InfoWars.  That doesn’t stop Trump from enjoying its content.

And, lastly, Breitbart News markets itself to white nationalists in an effort to corner the news market for avowed racists.  Its content either fabricates information or distorts in such a sensational way that context fades to oblivion and instead bestial and tribal mental processes control the brain and bring bigotry to its forefront.  Breitbart operates with racial motive and cares little for nuance or truth, especially truth that in any way undermines its nationalistic and borderline segregationist outlook.  Trump frequently tweets and praises the outlet.

Clearly, Trump doesn’t actually take issue with fake news (though he does enjoy hanging fake Time magazine covers in his golf resorts).  He takes issue with critical coverage.  Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, and Breitbart all wax poetic about the president and so Donald Trump ignores their journalistic malpractices and endorses their products.  But the likes of CNN, the New York Times, and Washington Post bother with the press’s actual purpose – guarding our liberty to ensure our Republic (to paraphrase Jefferson).

We must treat his actions seriously.  Trump’s vitriolic rhetoric – rhetoric echoed by his staff, favorable media outlets, and, most shamefully, some members of Congress – causes millions to, at best, doubt the press and, at worst, fall into the same derisions while simply ignoring information needed to understand the country and world.  This Trumpian assault hurts the country by undermining its bedrock.  It promotes ignorance and willing stupidity.  It’s an effort to subvert democracy to the statements of a deranged demagogue.

 

america decline

The Decline of a Nation

 

Demagoguery destroys nations.

America.  Conceived under tyranny and borne by patriots fighting for freedom and liberty.

Its ideals – our ideals – ring through our founding documents.  Our Declaration of Independence boldly states that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The Constitution recognizes fundamental and natural liberties destined to remain ever untouched by the corruption of mischievous faction.  These rights, to be heralded above all, constrained government and set forth the vision of our nation: A state dedicated to the equal liberty of all its residents.

declaration of independence

To be sure, our nation has not always lived up to its ideals.  The tree of liberty has been occasionally watered with the blood of citizens fighting for righteousness and always with an eye towards expanding liberty, both within and outside our country.

But now our country finds itself in unchartered territory.  For once, the denigrating forces of demagoguery have consumed enough voters to find itself in the Oval Office.  This presents dual problems for the country.

First, Donald Trump’s gross incompetence and actions motivated solely by animus, whether at racial or religious minorities or those who dare criticize him, threaten the global order and the continued democratic traditions here at home.  His political career started by alleging incorrectly that the country’s first black president was born in Kenya, not the United States.

While campaigning for president, he called for a complete ban on Muslims entering the country; claimed that challenger Ted Cruz’s further had been involved in the JFK assassination plot (another lie); called for Hillary Clinton to be jailed; and continuously railed (incorrectly, again) that outside forces would collude to steal the election from him.

national enquirer cruz oswold
Trump pushed this obviously false story in hopes of hurting Ted Cruz’s presidential bid.

Now, as president, he’s wrongly furthered the notion that 3 to 5 million ballots had been cast illegally.  He called Russian interference into the 2016 election a “witch-hunt” and “hoax.”  His tweets and virulent diatribes against the media as well as other foundations of our democracy threaten long-standing democratic mores and encourage millions of voters to live in willing ignorance.

Secondly, and intimately related to the dangers Donald Trump himself poses, his core supporters fervently embrace and believe all that Trump says – and only what Trump says.  That endangers democracy as the only person who can reach and influence millions of Americans is Donald Trump, a man whose lies as president already near 1,000.

trump fake news
Not one Trump supporter can actually explain why CNN is “fake news.”

These supporters have, by and large, foregone the values that make America great.  They care little about the Constitution or the democratic norms that have long brought success to our grand experiment.  Fundamental freedoms and liberties mean little so long as their abrogation benefits Donald Trump.  Charlie Sykes best described the phenomena when he decried conservatism’s morphing into an ideology that abandoned principles to instead annoy liberals.

Trump supporters lust for, or seeming desire, authoritarianism led by Trump (who many proclaim to be the “God Emperor”).  Demagoguery’s potent appeal leave many inebriated from the violent, ignorant, and condescending rhetoric from a man whose cult of personality attracts the constitutionally and ideologically ignorant.  And to them, Trump can do no wrong and his actions need not be motivated by the pursuit of constitutionalism or constitutional rights.

Bizarre propaganda.
Bizarre propaganda.

Now, their fervent belief that press critical of Trump is at best “fake news” and at worst, as adviser Kellyanne Conway put it, “unpatriotic.”  That precludes them from learning about policy, truly judging Donald Trump’s character, and challenging their fanaticism.  Instead, they turn to the likes of Fox News, which has portrayed itself as a de facto state media outlet, often ignoring information or revelations that would hurt Trump while attacking liberals or Democrats in a (succeeding) effort to further tribalize political divisions.

This leaves the country with increased polarization driven not so much by ideology but by different sets of facts and different truths, as irrational and impossible as that may be.  It’s possible these voters cannot be reached by any outlet with integrity.  Would that extend to Democratic politicians or activists?  Probably.  Divisions, then, may be insurmountable.

Such a phenomenon, of course, is neither new nor confined to Trump supporters.  Factions motivated by demagoguery have arisen throughout American history.  Democracy has long been known to suffer from a demagoguery problem, but America has largely remained safe from such forces due to a fervent belief in natural rights and our Constitution – democratic mores, in the worlds of Alexis de Tocqueville.  But as mentioned above, those democratic mores seem to be disappearing, perhaps as collective memories of the horrors perpetuated by illiberal and autocratic regimes fades.

The far-left also suffers from such a problem.  Democratic socialists and their even more radicalized comrades similarly distort history and facts to abandon constitutional rights and advocate instead for a revolution – democratic or otherwise – to change the regime.  They, however, number far fewer than those on the Trumpian right and so, for now, pose less a threat to our democracy’s success.

Socialism, of course, has never worked.
Socialism, of course, has never worked.

And so we see ourselves in the midst of our nation’s decline.  Liberties, rights, and democratic behavior becomes increasingly unimportant to large swaths of the population interested only in promoting their tribe (in this case, Donald Trump).  We’ve been here before and we’ve already emerged a stronger nation.  But it’s always taken a national emergency or collective, bipartisan action, the likes of which seems unlikely in this highly polarized time.

The best remedy may be a return to fundamental American values.  We must promote natural rights and use our history as a common building block to unify the nation and return political discourse to how we can best collectively protect and further these liberties to all Americans.

impeach trump

8 Reasons to Impeach Trump

Congress should immediately impeach Trump

Here are all of Donald Trump’s constitutional violations and other high crimes and misdemeanors – in other words, here are the reasons Congress should immediately impeach Trump.

1. Foreign Emoluments Clause

Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8: “[N]o Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them [the United States], 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.”

Any market transaction – regardless of “fair” price – from which an employee or stakeholder benefits financially constitutes an emolument, as our Founders understood and used the word.

Corporations owned by foreign governments fall under the Foreign Emoluments Clause, as do foreign government agencies and diplomats spending foreign government money.  Even if they do not pay above the fair market rate for their leases or rooms, the definition of “emolument” covers the transaction and, as the money originates from a foreign government and Trump, as a financial stakeholder in the Trump Organization, ultimately receives part of it.

Donald Trump’s refusal to divest himself from his sprawling, global businesses that frequently interact with (agents of) foreign governments means he has violated the Foreign Emoluments Clause since his first day in office.  A few examples include:

  1. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, a massive financial entity largely controlled by the Chinese government, rents space in Trump Tower New York.
  2. Abu Dhabi’s government tourism agency rents from a Trump-owned building.
  3. The Trump Hotel DC has drawn international visitors as well as diplomats and other foreign agents who book rooms at the president’s hotel in hopes of currying his favor.

Congress should immediately impeach Trump for violating a clause so serious that in 1810, a constitutional amendment stripping the citizenship from anyone receiving a foreign emolument fell one state short of ratification.  That state chose not to ratify the amendment because legislators found it redundant given the existing Foreign Emoluments Clause.  The potential for the president to be corrupted by foreign actors – or in any way be subject to a conflict of interest that causes the president to act without regard for the country’s best interest – greatly worried our Founders (see Federalist No. 22).  We should not take this impeachable offense lightly.

2. Domestic Emoluments Clause

Article 2, Section 2, Clause 7: “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 may not exceed the predefined presidential salary.  The president 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, causing the president to be biased in favor of certain states (much in the same way the Foreign Emoluments Clause seeks to prevent the president from being biased towards foreign interests).

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 (and also unfairly increases the demand for his hotel because patrons may stay there – and be tempted to pay more – in hopes of spotting Trump or a cabinet secretary).  Impeach Trump for this constitutional infringement.

3. Obstruction of Justice

Donald Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey because he “faced great pressure because of Russia,” which he figured had been “taken off” by dismissing the actor leading the Trump-Russia investigation (to boot: He gave this reasoning to Russia officials).

Comey’s firing occurred not long after Trump begged Comey to stop investigating Michael T. Flynn, former National Security Adviser.  “Let this go,” pleaded Trump, “he is a good guy.”  Furthermore, Trump had reportedly grown ever-more incensed that Comey refused to support Trump’s obviously false allegation that President Barack Obama wiretapped him.  Trump repeatedly asked for Comey’s sworn allegiance, which Comey – having sworn his loyalty to the Constitution, not a fallible politician – refused to give.  This, too, angered Trump and, combined with Comey’s devout interest in the Trump-Russia investigation (rather than identifying administration leakers), led Trump to fire the director.

Clearly, doing so represents obstruction of justice: Infuriated that Comey would not back down from the Trump-Russia investigation, drop the FBI’s investigation into Flynn, or swear loyalty to the president, Trump attempted to kill the probe by removing its head.  This obstruction well aligns with earlier administration actions:

  • The Trump administration selectively leaked classified information to Devin Nunes, who originally headed the House investigation into Russia’s 2016 influence, which Nunes then leaked to the press and public, hoping to stall the investigation. Nunes had to recuse himself.
  • Trump and his aides tried to block former acting Attorney General Sally Yates (whom Trump fired) from testifying before Congress. Yates, as would be revealed, cautioned Trump that Russians had compromised Flynn; Trump ignored those warnings and kept Flynn in the White House.  Naturally, Trump didn’t want such damaging information to be revealed, so he tried to block Yates from sharing her story with Congress and the American people.

Impeach Trump for doing his best to hinder investigations into his campaign and preventing those involved with the investigations from delivering correct information or testifying before Congress.

4. Witness Intimidation 

Worried that recently-fired James Comey would contradict publicly made statements, Donald Trump threatened to release White House tapes of conversations between the two actors (we still do not know whether these tapes exist).  Doing so constitutes witness intimidation as Comey, whose memos had recently leaked to media outlets, would almost certainly be called to testify before the House and Senate (indeed, not long thereafter, he was).  This threat, likely empty, represented an attempt to silence a potential witness in order to obstruct justice, preserve a narrative, and not be contradicted by someone more credible than himself.

This follows Trump’s attempts to silence Sally Yates and, before her testimony, more tweeted threats that amount to intimidation and witness discrediting.  It should hardly be a surprise, then, that Donald Trump – against direction from the White House Counsel – reached out to Michael Flynn, witness and subject in an FBI investigation, urging him to “stay strong.”  Such a message perhaps intimidates Flynn to silence; regardless of its result, Trump tampered with a potential witness to reassert his own interests.  Congress need not tolerate such behavior – the legislative branch should impeach Trump for his attempts to silence, intimidate, or otherwise tamper with (potential) witnesses.

5. Abuse of Power

 The actions described above constitute an egregious abuse of power: While the president of course has authority to fire the FBI Director, doing so in the midst of an FBI investigation into the president’s campaign and top aides politicizes the agency and shows that Trump believes he is above the law – or at least that he should be.  Impeach Trump for abusing the powers of the president.

6. Violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments

Trump’s initial travel ban executive order, since struck down by court and abandoned by the administration, would have given refugee preference to Christians (necessarily at the expense of Muslims).  Preferring Christians to Muslims violates the First Amendment – “the clearest command of the Establishment Clause is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another” (Larson v. Valente).  The same case holds that the government “may not aide or oppose any religion,” constitutional law clearly at odds with Trump’s original desire to give Christian refugees precedence vis a vis Muslims and spells out, in six simple words, why Trump’s campaign promise to bar Muslims from entering the country would never stand constitutional scrutiny.  Even though courts blocked the original travel ban, Trump still signed an unconstitutional order that ran against the First Amendment. That’s grounds for impeachment.

“An executive order or law displays unconstitutional animus and thus violates the Equal Protection Clause when it has the ‘purpose and effect of disapproval of a class recognized and protected by state law,’ as Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Windsor” (Corey Brettschneider, Politico Magazine).  The intent of Trump’s travel ban couldn’t be clearer: Prohibit as many Muslims as possible from entering the country.  Such an interpretation, of course, finds support throughout Trump’s campaign and even from top Trump supports.  Rudy Giuliani stated in an interview that prior to signing the first travel ban, Trump called him in hopes of advice on how to make the campaign’s Muslim ban legal.  The resultant ban, then, emerged as an attempt to make legal a blanket religious ban, one obviously motivated by animus.  That, according to the principles laid out in Windsor, violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

7. Unfaithfully Executing Laws

Realizing that a blanket Muslim ban would surely be struck down by the courts, Trump unveiled the two immigration executive orders that trade a religious ban for a country-specific one.  However, in doing so and in hoping to executive such an order, Trump violated the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA), which forbids discrimination on the basis of national origin.  He knowingly signed an executive order that broke a legitimately enacted law; enforcing the executive order necessarily mean failing to enforce the 1965 INA – the two cannot coexist.  In hoping to do so, Trump violated Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, which holds that the president “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”  Impeach Trump for neglecting to do the president’s most import duty.

8. Inciting Violence

Three protesters have sued Donald Trump for inciting violence at one of his riots.  Recently, a federal judge ruled it “plausible” that Trump “incited a riot.”  At the rally, Trump screamed to his crowd: “Get ‘em out of here!” in reference to peaceful protesters.  Such charged rhetoric led to violence in other rallies, too, often driven by Trump’s own words (see: Mashable).  Trump glorified campaign violence, going so far as to encourage, in a likely form of stochastic terrorism, for “Second Amendment people” to stop Hillary Clinton from taking their firearms (which she obviously had no intent to do).

As CNN reports, “Judge Hale reiterated that Bamberger began pushing the protesters on Trump’s order and that as Trump’s supporters began shoving protesters, the would-be president said, “Don’t hurt ’em.”

“Presumably,” the judge wrote in dismissing Trump’s free speech defense (incitement is not speech), “if Trump had intended for protesters to be escorted out by security personnel, Trump would have instructed the intervening audience members to stop what they were doing, rather than offering guidance on how to go about it.”

In fact, the two attendees who attacked the protesters “blame Trump for their behavior at the rally, saying he encouraged the violence by telling the crowd to “get ’em out of here,” referring to protesters. At earlier rallies Trump had promised to pay his supporters’ legal fees if they got in trouble,” a clear indication that Trump appreciated and supported efforts to violently put down protests (why else would he be willing to foot the legal bills?).

Trump’s a threat to protesters and others seeking to exercise their right to free speech. Impeach Trump for encouraging violence and the suppression of dissent.

trump domestic emoluments

Donald Trump Violates the Domestic Emoluments Clause

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.




donald trump emoluments clause

Donald Trump and the Emoluments Clause

Trump and the Emoluments Clause 

President Donald Trump almost certainly violated the Foreign Emoluments Clause, Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution, from the moment he took the Oath of Office.  It has already become a rallying cry for those who want to see Trump impeached – their arguments are sound and strong.  But many might be asking: What is the Emoluments Clause and how does it apply to Donald Trump?  Here’s a quick primer.

What is the Emoluments Clause?

The Emoluments Clause states that “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them [the United States], 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.”  That means no federal officeholder can accept a present, emolument, office, or title from an agent of a foreign government (without Congress’s consent).  Most of those are easy to understand: A present is obvious, as is an office or title – a senator, for instance, cannot also be the Interior Minister for France; similarly, s/he cannot be knighted by Queen of England – but an emolument is rather ambiguous.

So what is an emolument?

 An emolument, per the Oxford English Dictionary, is “a salary, fee, or profit from employment or office.”  Money received from one’s official position or financial stake in a company is thus an emolument.  Note that this definition is quite broad – it covers fair market value transactions, not just gifts or bestowments greater than the fair price for a good or service.  Any profit from a position is an emolument.

How does this apply to Donald Trump?

Donald Trump’s sprawling, global businesses frequently interact with agents of foreign governments.  Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, a massive financial entity largely controlled by the Chinese government, rents space in Trump Tower New York.  The Trump Organization also leases space to Abu Dhabi’s government tourism agency.  Trump’s most recent project, Trump Hotel DC, has already drawn international visitors as diplomats and other foreign agents book rooms at the president’s hotel in hopes of currying his favor.  All of these examples violate the Emoluments Clause.  Corporations owned by foreign governments fall under the Emoluments Clause, as do foreign government agencies and diplomats spending foreign government money.  Even if they do not pay above the fair market rate for their leases or rooms, the definition of “emolument” covers the transaction and, as the money originates from a foreign government and Trump, as a financial stakeholder in the Trump Organization, ultimately receives part of it.  That stands in direct contradiction to the letter and spirit of the Emoluments Clause.

Wait, I thought Trump resolved his conflicts of interest before taking office?

No.  He announced his resignation from the boards of many of the Trump Organization’s companies.  That, however, does nothing to alleviate Emoluments Clause concerns.  So long as he continues to have a financial stake in the businesses – and he still does – and thus can benefit from foreign deals, he will violate the Constitution.  Furthermore, while Trump said he would donate any profits (how will define “profit”?)  from his DC hotel to the US Treasury, that mitigates no Emoluments Clause concerns because he will still receive money that originated from foreign governments.  The Clause offers no exception for charitable emolument uses.

Does the Emoluments Clause even pertain to the President?

 Almost certainly.  In Article 2, which pertains to the executive branch, the presidency is referred to as an office (which aligns with Emoluments Clause wording of “office…under [the United States].”

Okay, but does the Emoluments Clause actually matter?

Yes, very much so.  The Emoluments Clause arose from fear of corruption or manipulation of US politics by foreign actors.  Payments of any form endow one to the giver.  Consider, too, Donald Trump’s swooning over any who complement him – now add money to the mix and imagine his reaction.  In a Republic of any age, the potentially deleterious influence of foreign actors (or situations in which a president might be motivated to place himself above the country) must be avoided by following the guidelines the Founders laid.

And to those Founders, foreign emoluments presented a major concern.  In 1810, just a couple decades after the Constitution’s signing, Congress approved an amendment to the Constitution that would have stripped the citizenship from anyone who received, without Congress’s consent, a foreign emolument.  The amendment fell one state short of ratification, largely because some found it redundant due to the Constitution’s existing Emoluments Clause.  Clearly, the Founders did not take such issues lightly.  We shouldn’t, either.

So what recourse do we have?

 As citizens, very little.  We don’t have standing to sue Trump for the Emoluments Clause violation.  DC hotels that compete with Trump’s might have standing, but it would be tenuous at best.  Congress could pass a waiver, though doing so would be quite dangerous: We should not allow the president to receive emoluments that could cause him to ignore the country’s best interests.  Trump could fully divest from his business or place it in a truly blind trust, but he has shown no interest in doing either.

Therefore, the best recourse is to urge impeachment.   Trump continues to violate an integral part of the Constitution and his doing so risks innumerable conflicts of interest that, at worst, would pit the interests of the Head of State and Government against those of the nation he leads.  Voters, and Congress, should take this infringement seriously and act accordingly to remedy this flagrant constitutional wrong.