From an exclusive report today from wire news service Reuters, we learned that Donald Trump and the Trump Organization are now embroiled in a question of violations of the Emoluments Clause that goes well beyond the borders of the existing lawsuits against him in the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia.
The emoluments cases involve Trump or his business interests accepting “gifts or payments from foreign governments without congressional consent.” The cases in Maryland and DC had primarily centered on the use of the Trump International Hotel in the nation’s capital, and the fact that revenue from foreign diplomats staying there that makes its way into Trump’s various bank accounts could constitute such violations.
The Trump administration, in its unsuccessful argument to have those cases dismissed, argued that the revenue would have to be proven to have been derived directly from Trump’s role as President of the United States — those foreign officials would have to have somehow indicated that they were staying there specifically because they wanted to influence American politics by paying to stay at one of the President’s properties.
A federal judge rejected that claim on Tuesday, calling it “unpersuasive and inconsistent,” which is perhaps charitable. Such a narrow view of what might constitute proof of corruption fits the Trumpian worldview — if it’s not explicitly illegal, it’s totally fine to engage in — but would not likely withstand federal prosecutors’ scrutiny.
The new complaint detailed at Reuters involves the discovery of several foreign government leases at Trump World Tower, including by the governments of Iraq, Kuwait, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Thailand, and the European Union.
A Freedom of Information Act request allowed Reuters to confirm that more requests were sent to the State Department in the 8 months following Trump’s inauguration for new or renewed leases at Trump World Tower than in the two previous years combined by all foreign government lessees. It was still unclear from State Department records whether they had signed off on leases from two additional governments — Algeria and South Korea — in that same period.
The entire issue, of course, could have been solved in advance by the President if he had simply fully divested himself from any business that could potentially have dealings with the US government. The logic is that it’s not simply about foreign entities or governments potentially influencing American politics — Trump is as likely as not to actually deliver on his own end of any bargain he struck with anyone — but also the fact that Trump is seemingly profiting off the “business” of being the President, from collecting receipts at his hotels to paying himself to golf at his own resorts.
After the discovery of ongoing leases, however, hotel receipts and greens fees seem like small change.
Featured image is a screen capture.