Donald Trump’s defense team believe the President of the United States can not be found guilty of violating the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. They claim that the President has full impunity from any wrongdoings and therefore is above the rules and regulations set forth by U.S. law.
Their claim arrives after three different lawsuits were filed in federal court following the President’s refusal to fully divest from his businesses or place them in a blind trust. The emoluments clauses of the Constitution state that no standing U.S. President can accept unlawful payments or other benefits from foreign governments and from the United States while serving in office.
Trump’s team believes federal courts can hear none of these suits because no one has “standing” to sue him for these constitutional violations.
Article I, Section IX of the Constitution directly states that no person holding a federal office can receive a “present” or “emolument … of any kind whatever” from a foreign state.
The clause was put in place or a very specific reason, to ensure that no standing federal official could be held accountable by a foreign power because of money paid or services and favors rendered.
The 45th POTUS isn’t just running a single enterprise, he has over 100 registered or provisional trademarks in China alone. The President has had six trademarks approved in China since taking office, including some that were stuck in limbo for years before they were suddenly approved. That should be troublesome to every American.
The U.S. Constitution isn’t just focused on foreign money earned while in office. Article II, Section I says the president “shall not receive… any other emolument from the United States” except the salary paid for serving in the office. The U.S. Government leases office space in some of Trump’s buildings, once again directly violating the U.S. Constitution.
Chemerinsky believes the President is destroying the Emoluments clause and is serving as a co-counsel on a lawsuit filed by the public interest group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Also suing the President are the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia which claim that businesses in their jurisdictions are hurt by such constitutional violations. Included in the lawsuits are more than 200 members of Congress.
Marybury V. Madison
The President is wrong is assuming there is no precedent for such actions to be taken against him. Marybury V. Madison went before the Supreme Court and found that the “Constitution exists to limit the actions of the government and government officers, and these limits are meaningless if they cannot be enforced,” Chemerinsky, explains.
The 200+ members of Congress are suing to establish that they do not have to act in order for the President to be held accountable. Under the Emoluments Clause, Congress is able to allow emoluments to be given to a federal employee. They believe that by not giving that permission, the President is in violation of the Clause.
With the GOP controlling both houses of Congress, they could, of course, given the President the ability to accept emoluments from foreign governments, although it would show a strong desire by the Republican Party to undermine the protections afforded to the American people by the U.S. Constitution.
If you want to know why this matters to you, check out Erwin Chemerinsky’s newest book “Closing the Courthouse Door: How Your Constitutional Rights Became Unenforceable.”
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James Kosur is the former Editor-In-Chief and co-founder of Hill Reporter. He recently served as an editor for Business Insider and various other publications. James and his partners sold Hill Reporter to a new owner in July 2019.