Donald Trump risks breaching US constitution on day one, George Bush’s former ethics lawyer warns

The President-elect reportedly entertained a group of 100 foreign diplomats with food, a tour and a sales pitch – it could violate the ‘Emoluments Clause’

Rachael Revesz
New York
Sunday 20 November 2016 15:41
Comments
Mr Trump at his new hotel in Washington DC which he talked about frequently during his campaign trail
Mr Trump at his new hotel in Washington DC which he talked about frequently during his campaign trail

Two top law professors have urged Donald Trump to divest from his new hotel in Washington DC after it was used to entertain and give a sales pitch to foreign diplomats, potentially violating the US constitution as soon as he enters office.

Richard Painter, a University of Minnesota law professor who was chief ethics counsel to George W Bush, told Think Progress that the President-elect could be in breach of the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits presidents from buying influence with federal officials or receiving special treatment.

The clause states: “No person holding any office of profit or trust under” the United States “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.”

Donald Trump calls for a Muslim registry in the United States

Mr Painter explained that Mr Trump and diplomats can do business, but if they pay over “fair market value” it is considered a “gift”, breaching the constitution.

As Mr Trump trades on the value of his own name, diplomats would arguably be staying in his hotel to benefit from the “added value” of doing business with the US president.

A spokesperson for the Trump Hotel in Washington DC could not be reached by The Independent to confirm that the group of 100 diplomats had attended the hotel on Friday evening.

“It had better stop by January 20,” said Mr Painter.

He advised the President-elect to sell the hotel or give it to his children and pay the gift tax before his inauguration. Mr Trump opened the hotel on 12 September, in front of the nation’s cameras.

While it would be unlikely for the constitution to be used against him or for another Washington DC hotel to sue Mr Trump, Mr Painter said one possible result for Mr Trump could be impeachment.

Laurence Tribe, professor of law at Harvard University, agreed with Mr Painter.

He said that Mr Trump was “uniquely suable” as, contrary to his predecessors, he has business competitors.

The potential ongoing conflicts of interest come despite Mr Trump vowing that his children would manage a “blind trust” to house his business assets once he enters the White House.

Mr Trump frequently lambasted the Clinton Foundation on the campaign trail, saying it was not clear where the Clinton Foundation ended and the state department began.

Incoming Vice-president Mike Pence was asked on Fox News whether the Trump Organisation would become like the Clinton Foundation “on steroids”.

“I am very confident, working with the best legal minds in the country, that the President-elect and his family will create the proper separation from his business as he goes forward,” he said.

Mr Trump has already come under scrutiny for allowing his eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, to sit in on a first meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan with Japanese prime minster Shinzo Abe.

He has denied that he tried to obtain security clearances for his children and son-in-law to gain access to highly classified briefings.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in