So, they sent a check to the Treasury Department? Let’s see the paper trail. Except that, apparently, there isn’t one.
According to a statement sent to the Associated Press, the Trump Organization has made a payment to the United States Treasury to reimburse the government for profits gleaned from doing business with foreign governments.
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Supposedly, in the world of Trump-landia, this covers the impropriety of Trump totally ignoring the Emoluments Clause in the Constitution. But does it?
Why This Matters
After the election and before the inauguration, then president-elect Donald Trump made a big presentation to sign over the operation of his business empire. Trump stated that he was turning over the day-to-day operation of his corporations to his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric. Much ado was made of the presentation and he hired a lawyer to make an elegant speech. Most people saw it as just another episode of the reality show, Trumps Screws America.
The Title of Nobility Clause, better known as the Emoluments Clause 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.
In plain language, it prohibits elected officials from accepting gifts or profits from foreign governments. The purpose was to keep elected officials from bestowing payment-in-kind (better known as favors). Because foreign nationals frequently stay at Trump-owned properties, he is probably raking in a significant profit. To conform to the Emoluments Clause, those profits should be recorded and turned over to the government.
Why The Move Still Seems Shady
Trump Organization executive vice president, George Sorial, presented a statement to the AP that a payment had been sent in on February 22. The payment supposedly covered all profits gleaned from foreign dignitaries and governments from January 20, 2017, through December 31, 2017. No amount was disclosed. Nor was it disclosed how the Trump Organization arrived at the amount they submitted. The company stated that they would donate:
“…Obvious payments from foreign governments, but wouldn’t probe into potential expenses on behalf of countries.”
So the question remains — what do they consider “obvious payments?” And what portion of the profits? Did they use gross profits or net profits after adjustment? The Trump Organization and the Treasury did not respond to requests for comments, so we may never know for sure.
The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is suspicious. Their executive director, Noah Bookbinder, said:
“There is no independent oversight or accountability. We’re being asked to take their word for it. Most importantly, even if they had given every dime they made from foreign governments to the Treasury, the taking of those payments would still be a problem under the Constitution.”
According to The Hill:
“The attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia are suing Trump and his company over the receipt of foreign payments, arguing it violates the Constitution. The complaint also claims Trump’s Washington hotel unfairly detracts from D.C. revenues from events that could have otherwise been hosted at locations the district either owns or shares profits with.”
Feeling the Heat
The investigation into Trump’s business ties and potential conspiracy with Russia continues. It is highly likely that special counsel Robert Mueller will add this latest development to his long list of areas to check. Trump is undoubtedly feeling the heat of Mueller’s investigation. More and more people with close ties to his campaign and administration team are pleading guilty to a plethora of criminal charges.
Note for clarification — we made up the reality show, Trump Screws America. It doesn’t really exist… Yet.
Featured image from YouTube video.