Donald Trump 'will violate US Constitution on first day of presidency' due to business interests

President-elect's refusal to give up ownership of business empire is contrary to very first constitutional clause

Benjamin Kentish
Monday 12 December 2016 10:37
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Donald Trump 'will violate US Constitution on first day of presidency' due to business interests

Donald Trump is on course to violate the US Constitution on day one of his presidency after insisting he will not relinquish ownership of his businesses while in office.

The US President-elect confirmed during a Fox News Sunday interview that he will hand the management of his companies to his children but will not give up ownership of the businesses.

Mr Trump said: “When I ran, everybody knew that I was a very big owner of real estate all over the world.”

“I’m not going to have anything to do with management of the company.”

Retaining ownership of his companies was not necessarily a conflict of interest, he added.

It means Mr Trump is likely to violate Article 1, Section 9 of the US Constitution, which says no holder of public office can “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”.

Mr Trump is thought to profit from foreign states through their use of his businesses. The state-owned Bank of China is reportedly a tenant in Trump Tower, New York, and the Bahraini Government last week held a reception at Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C, where hiring a room can cost many thousands of dollars.

In addition, sources have suggested overseas countries will use Mr Trump’s hotels when he is President - something that could be interpreted as gift-giving. One diplomat from an unnamed Asian country told the Washington Post: “Why wouldn’t I stay at his hotel blocks from the White House, so I can tell the new president, ‘I love your new hotel!’ Isn’t it rude to come to his city and say, ‘I am staying at your competitor?”

Another diplomat from a Middle Eastern country added: ““Believe me, all the delegations will go there”.

One possible way around the constitutional regulation could be for the President-elect to seek congressional approval to retain his businesses and be provided with permission to profit from foreign governments.

The rule is so strict that Barack Obama had to seek official advice on whether he could legally accept the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. Justice Department lawyers concluded that he could because the award is privately funded - but that accepting it would have been forbidden had it come from a foreign state.

Mr Trump has repeatedly come under fire over claims that retaining ownership of his companies while serving as president constitutes a major conflict of interest.

He has responded by saying his children will be managing the businesses and he is “not going to be doing deals at all”.

However, questions have been raised over the fact Mr Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, has been closely involved in planning for the Trump presidency while she is also in charge of the family's business empire.

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Ms Trump was present at a meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, and during a phone conversation with Mauricio Macri, the President of Argentina - both countries where the Trump family have business interests.

The Trump transition team responded by insisting no business matters had been discussed during the conversations.

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