Something Called Emoluments

The vast forces arrayed against President Donald Trump opened yet another line attack on Monday, with the attorneys general of Maryland of Washington, D.C., alleging in court that the president’s ongoing profits from his private enterprises is a violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause. That might well be a bit over the top as a legal position, but it’s a pretty savvy political argument, and we’re surprised they hadn’t gotten around to it yet.
The emoluments clause prohibits all public officials up to and including the president from accepting any “present, Emolument, Office, or title, of any kind, from any King, Prince, or foreign State,” and those attorneys general figure that all the money Trump has lately been raking in from foreigners at his still openly held properties in Maryland and Washington, D.C., violates that. It’s a tricky legal argument, as there’s not a lot of precedent to go on, but that’s because no previous president was raking in profits from his private enterprises while serving as president, so we can see how it’s a tempting political argument.
Meanwhile, the bigger attack on Trump has to do with that Russia thing with Trump and Russia, which is moving along on the recent testimony of a fired Federal Bureau of Investigation director and perhaps with today’s testimony by the recused-from-whole-mess Attorney General, and those attorneys general will probably help with that. Part of the intrigue in that whole thing has also has something to do with Trump’s much-boasted-about far-flung business empire, which he has declined to fully explain through tax returns and other routine presidential disclosures, so this imbroglio might well spill into the other.
Trump’s lawyers aren’t used to these kinds of political intrigues, and neither is he, and so far the courts haven’t been sympathetic to him, but we expect the lawsuits won’t outlast his presidency. He’ll need some good some political arguments to make his presidency last, though, and so far he’s had trouble coming up with them.

— Bud Norman

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