What Is The Emoluments Clause And Why Should You Care About It?

Our founding fathers were worried about the introduction of business interests into government from the very beginning — surely if they could see what American government, and indeed, the very concept of American “Democracy,” has been reduced to, then they would in all likelihood be rolling around in their graves. Especially since they provided blatant and specific protections that should have prevented this kind of behavior.

Article I, Section 9 of the United States Constitution is the foreign emoluments clause, and 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 any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

Emolument basically translates to business income while in office. The framers of our Constitution most probably wanted to prevent our government officials from outside influence, including foreign governments and domestic business interests.

So when Donald Trump announced that the United States will hold the next G7 Summit at one of his very own resorts, you can imagine what the writers of the Constitution would have had to say.

But then again, he also got away with keeping all of his businesses. He handed over control of those businesses to his children, but he still owns them. He still receives the income while in office. Considering the precedent of former presidents — Jimmy Carter put his failing peanut farm into a blind trust — this is hardly appropriate conduct for the most powerful man in the world.

For Trump to use his own business property to hold the next G7 Summit isn’t just a major conflict of interest — it’s illegal. A number of high profile individuals have been saying as much: if anyone but the president tried to do this, they would be promptly arrested and put in jail.

John Cassidy wrote for the New Yorker: “The even greater scandal is that Trump continues to get away with this sort of thing. If an ordinary government official awarded a valuable federal contract to a company that he had an ownership stake in, he could well be arrested and sent to prison. As President, Trump is exempt from the federal conflict-of-interest statutes — a glaring omission that must have delighted him when he found out about it.”

In other words, his own officials aren’t exactly going to be looking into his choice.

But with impeachment proceedings looming — and in all likelihood those happy articles will be drafted very soon — he could well be looking at a greater number of potential charges than any other president has faced before.