Article I, section 9 of the Constitution states: “And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, 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.” Simply put, this Constitutional provision is intended to restrict the ability of foreign governments to influence American officeholders.
Three constitutional heavyweights, Erwin Chemerinsky, Zephyr Teachout, and Laurence Tribe are suing President Trump for his numerous violations of Article I, section 9. The idea behind the lawsuit is to challenge the apparent corruption that Trump’s business dealings with foreign governments, including India, the Philippines, Japan, and Scotland. Indeed, Trump and his children have met with Indian businesspersons who are erecting a Trump-licensed luxury condominium complex in Mumbai. And just prior to the Brexit vote in late 2016, Trump was in Scotland lobbying against placing a planned wind farm within view of his golf course in Aberdeen, Scotland.
Trump himself bragged throughout his campaign that a bank owned by China is a tenant in Trump Tower. As the landlord, Trump stands to benefit from the leasehold. Insofar as our President has refused to release his tax returns, we cannot know the full extent of his violations of the Emolument Clause but these few examples are adequate and pose an appearance of a conflict of interest. These conflicts serve to undermine public confidence and serve as distractions as we continue to evaluate Trump’s seemingly erratic decisions.
Of course, it is expected that Trump’s tax returns will prove useful to explore the extent of his admitted entanglements with foreign governments. . .
Tonight, Trump will name his first Supreme Court nominee who will be vetted for the position as an associate justice. Given that past nominees have declined comment when questions are asked raising issues that may come before the court, there can be no doubt that any potential nominee will want to duck and weave to avoid revealing his views about the Emoluments Clause litmus test for qualification.
Sean Erenstoft is a civil rights advocate from Los Angeles.