Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Influence Peddlers From Hell

The Trump family's influence-peddling is on a scale that dwarfs anything the Clintons thought up. Remember the Lincoln Bedroom kerfuffle of the late 90s? Good times! Trump is daring impeachment!:
How this compromises Trump is obvious. His company owns properties and businesses all over the United States as well as around the world. Gorod laid out a few of Trump’s possible conflicts that appear to violate Article II:

[I]t’s apparent that there may be no shortage of ways in which the new President may be violating the Domestic Emoluments Clause, even as the President-elect’s failure to disclose all of his financial holdings and interests makes it impossible to know the true extent of the problem.

Perhaps most significantly, with hotels and property developments all over the United States, it’s possible that Trump has been — and will continue to be — the beneficiary of tax breaks from any number of states. As [The New York] Times has reported, since 1980, Trump “has reaped at least $885 million in tax breaks, grants and other subsidies for luxury apartments, hotels and office buildings in New York.” And that’s just in New York. It’s not difficult to imagine that Trump could use the power of the presidency to “encourage” states and cities to offer similar tax breaks to his properties, or that states and cities could of their own will do so to try to curry favor with the Administration. Likewise, Trump plans to maintain a financial stake in the reality TV show “Celebrity Apprentice.” It’s quite possible that the show might be the recipient of tax incentives and breaks, and that Trump would be one of the people reaping the benefits.

It’s also not difficult to imagine Trump’s children winking and nodding at various parties to offer favors in exchange for favorable regulations or other benefits. Just this week it was revealed that Trump’s older sons were involved in selling access to the president for million-dollar donations to unnamed “conservation charities.” (That they would do this after their father and the Republican Party spent months ripping Hillary Clinton for taking the calls of donors to the Clinton Foundation redefines the word hypocrisy.)

Real problems to come:
In short, the Emoluments Clause covers just about any situation in which a public official profits in any way from a foreign state or such a state’s “agents and instrumentalities.” This broadness is by design: The authors argue that the entire point of the Emoluments Clause is for it to be read broadly (contra Tillman’s interpretation). The framers didn’t want there to be situations where the public or Congress would have to decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether a given instance in which the president or another powerful official profiting from a foreign entity was, in fact, bribery or favor-currying. That’s no way to run a government: As long as such questions exist, they corrode the system and sap public confidence in government.

Which brings us to Trump. The authors write that the sorts of concerns the Emoluments Clause is designed to head off “may be exacerbated in Mr. Trump’s case” because of how closely he has linked Donald Trump, president, to Donald Trump, magnate, during the campaign and his period as president-elect.

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