The Constitution is quite plain in Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 where it says: “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 clause is supported by Article II, Section 1: “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.”
President Trump may have violated both of these. He has acted in a general manner that undermines public trust in the entire government. “In every prior presidential impeachment proceeding in our country’s history, a central element of the charges was that the president—be it Johnson, Nixon or Clinton—acted in a manner contrary to his position of trust as president. The remedy for egregious violations of the public trust is impeachment. Throughout his tenure in office, President Trump’s conduct has undermined public faith that the government acts only for the good of the American people rather than for his own self-enrichment. This belief in an impartial, neutral government is critical for democracy to function; once the integrity of government institutions comes into question, the faith in the entire government superstructure breaks down.” Robert Reich, too, has written often about Trump’s violations in this respect.
There are two pending cases accusing Trump of violating the Emoluments Clause. “Donald Trump’s decision to award himself the G-7 Summit at his Doral Resort [was also] a violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. And it’s probably a violation of the Domestic Emoluments Clause. In fact, it’s probably the most obvious violation of those clauses in American history. It’s self-dealing; it’s corrupt; it’s an impeachable offense on its own. The House Judiciary Committee is going to “investigate” the self-dealing, because they pretty much have to.” Of course, it was such an obvious violation that Trump abandoned the idea, muttering that the accusations of Emoluments Clause violations were “phony.”
“The Doral proposal highlighted the emoluments issue. But it runs deeper than one scheme. There is plenty of evidence of wrongdoing, beginning with the frequent stays by administration officials—including Vice President Pence during his recent Ireland trip—at out-of-the-way Trump properties. And there are the concerns raised about the ways in which the president’s business interests have appeared to influence his governing decisions with regard to countries such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey.”
Then there are the Hatch Act violations. Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s special counsel, has violated the law more than 50 times, and Trump has done nothing about it. What he may have done instead is order federal government workers to further a partisan political campaign. This resulted when he had a hold put on funds that were to go to the Ukrainian government because he wanted the Ukrainians to investigate Joe Biden and his son. The investigation would have helped defeat Biden in his presidential bid.
I watched Day 1 of the public impeachment hearings, which focused narrowly on the Ukrainian issue. Much depended on whether one believed that Trump was trying to get the Ukrainians to do his bidding by investigating Biden. It would seem much easier to prove that Vice-President Pence spent $550 of taxpayer money per night to sleep in Trump’s hotel. Although there is a legal question as to whether this would violate the Emoluments Clause, most of the weight sides with those who believe that it does. Proving the facts behind the violations are a lot easier so long as the law is on your side. And the idea that a President can take away thousands if not millions of dollars from taxpayers in violation of the law would certainly support impeachment.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi was insistent on a narrowly focused investigation, presumably because there are so many accusations against Trump that a broad investigation would be hard to control. But the emoluments violations are easy to prove. It seems to me that more effort should have been made to put to rest the legal interpretation of the emoluments clause – which could surely have been done, given the two pending cases involving the same issue. It seems to me, too, that if Trump accepted taxpayer (or foreign government) money for one of his hotel rooms, that fits into the rules regarding emoluments. In any event, it’s not too late to add the Hatch Act and Emoluments Clause issues if the Ukrainian case looks weak.