Among the many legal situations faced by number 45 is the issue of using the presidency as a money hustle and as a scam on the American public. This is a form of conflicts-of-interest and is called the Emoluments Clause issue. It deals directly with sections of the U.S. Constitution, particularly Article I and Article II, and identify the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments clauses of the Constitution.
The Foreign Emoluments clause– Article I, Section 9– states, “No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United 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.”
The Domestic Emoluments clause in Article II, Section 1, states, “The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased 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.”
At least three lawsuits have been filed against Mr. Trump regarding profits he is deriving from foreign dignitaries paying for lodging and accommodations at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., located right down the street from the White House. One law suit has been directly dismissed for ‘lack of standing’ by the plaintiffs. That means the presiding judge in the case could not find enough evidence that the plaintiffs—in this case a group named CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics –suffered financial harm from the financial arrangements going on at the Trump Hotel and other properties..
In late July, 2018, two state attorneys general, one from Maryland and the other from Washington, D.C., succeeded in convincing another judge that their states/districts were being financially harmed by the operations of the Trump Hotel. That case is on-going, with the real probability during discovery procedures that Mr. Trump’s missing income taxes will finally be revealed, along with other relevant financial data. Again, the case has legs and has not been dismissed, in spite of the Justice Department’s strenuous legal objections.
The third case is a suit by 200 Democratic members of Congress (the Republicans have shown zero interest in this issue). According to the Constitution, the president can involve himself/herself in accepting gifts and other emoluments from foreign dignitaries as long as Congress has approved the transactions. Number 45 has not sought such approval and Congress has not granted it, thus the lawsuit. It seeks to enjoin Mr. Trump from continuing to profit from the Trump Hotel in D.C. and other properties until he asks for and receives approval from Congress. That case, too, is still alive. The probability of its success is currently high.
All the emoluments cases are dependent on the current definition of the term, and on what the framers meant by it in 1787-1788 when the Constitution was ratified. Black’s Law Dictionary, the current legal authority in the profession, says that an emolument is, “the profit arising from office or employment; that which is received as a compensation for services, or which is annexed to the possession of office as salary, fees, and perquisites; advantage; gain, public or private.” These cases represent the first real opportunity for the federal bench to rule on the clarity of our definition of emoluments, and may eventually have to be decided by the Supreme Court.