The emoluments clause will only apply to Democrats going forward
This is disturbing but sadly unsurprising. The Trump DOJ is arguing that a president may receive money from foreign governments through the businesses he unethically continues to run while in office:
The Department of Justice has adopted a narrow interpretation of a law meant to bar foreign interests from corrupting federal officials, giving Saudi Arabia, China and other countries leeway to curry favor with Donald Trumpvia deals with his hotels, condos, trademarks and golf courses, legal and national security experts say.
The so-called foreign emoluments clause was intended to curb presidents and other government officials from accepting gifts and benefits from foreign governments unless Congress consents.
But in a forthcoming article in the Indiana Law Journal, the Washington University Law professor Kathleen Clark reveals justice department filings have recently changed tack. The new interpretation, Clark says, is contained in justice filings responding to recent lawsuits lodged by attorneys generals and members of Congress.
Clark’s article notes that in more than 50 legal opinions over some 150 years justice department lawyers have interpreted the clause in a way that barred any foreign payments or gifts except for ones Congress approved. But filings by the department since June 2017 reveal a new interpretation that “… would permit the president – and all federal officials – to accept unlimited amounts of money from foreign governments, as long as the money comes through commercial transactions with an entity owned by the federal official,” the professor writes.
The justice department stance now closely parallels arguments made in a January 2017 position paper by Trump Organization lawyer Sheri Dillon and several of her law partners. On 11 January 2017, just days before he was sworn in, Dillon said Trump isn’t accepting any payments in his “official capacity” as president, as the income is only related to his private business. “Paying for a hotel room is not a gift or a present, and it has nothing to do with an office,” Dillon said.
That goes against what many experts believe.
“For over a hundred years, the justice department has strictly interpreted the constitution’s anti-corruption emoluments clause to prohibit federal officials from accepting anything of value from foreign governments, absent congressional consent,” Clark told the Guardian.
“In 2017, the department reversed course, adopting arguments nearly identical to those put forward by Trump’s private sector lawyers. Instead of defending the republic against foreign influence, the department is defending Trump’s ability to receive money from foreign governments,” Clark added.
A justice department spokesperson declined to comment, but pointed to its filings in the emoluments lawsuits which Clark has noted contain five arguments similar to those used by Trump’s business lawyers. Among the key justice arguments is that the foreign emoluments clause only was intended to prohibit the president accepting gifts and employment compensation from a foreign government, but allows him to benefit from what it calls “commercial transactions”.
Other legal scholars also voice strong qualms about the justice department’s current position on emoluments and criticize the administration’s lax attitude about conflicts involving Trump and his business empire.
“The heart of the matter is that these are clauses meant to guard against undue foreign influence and conflicts of interest,” John Mikhail, a professor at Georgetown Law Center, said.
No Democrat can get elected without divesting of his or her businesses and investments so this won't be an issue. And if it should come up a Democratic DOJ would take the opposite tack. So this is an exception for Republican administrations only, and specifically for Donald Trump who is unique in his monumental greed and petty corruption. But if they continue to elect such people, as they probably will, it's a nice precedent for them. Republican residents going forward know that they can have a nice side hustle and their own DOJ and the courts packed full of political hacks and right wing ideologues, they'll be able to get away with it.
GOP shamelessness has been institutionalized.