A newly published NBC News review found evidence that representatives of at least 22 foreign governments have made payments to Donald Trump’s still-owned, for-profit company. According to some expert interpretations and two federal lawsuits, this is illegal: The Constitution specifically prohibits the U.S. president from accepting “emoluments”—gifts, payments, or fees—from foreign governments as means of preventing a presidency from being compromised by whichever foreign sources are willing to offer the most convincing bribes.
The review counts at least nine foreign governments that have hosted events at one of Trump’s properties, nine that have rented or purchased property in one of Trump’s developments, and five that have sent representatives to stay at one of those properties. They include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, China, and other governments with pressing business with Trump’s administration, because of course.
The obvious conflict of interest—and the perception of outright bribery—was warned of early in the Trump campaign. Nonetheless, Trump refused to relinquish his business interests after his inauguration. In an attempt to stifle what was becoming a din of watchdog voices warning that his actions violated the Constitution’s prohibition, the Trump Organization announced that they would be donating any “profits” gleaned from foreign government payments to the U.S. Treasury. They did not define profits, nor have they provided documentation for any of the numbers subsequently claimed to be profits. It is a black box. The Trump Organization, managed during Trump’s presidency by his children, has insisted that no further disclosures will be made.
This is, of course, all crooked as hell. The notion that Trump, exposed by The New York Times and other reporting as a longtime tax cheat, and offspring Donald Trump Jr., just summoned to again explain himself after giving what appeared to be incomplete or misleading answers to the Republican-led Senate committee investigating his communications with Russian government cutouts during Russia’s 2016 election-hacking efforts, need no documentation for their assurances that they are not violating the Constitution because they are patching it all back up on the back end, is asinine.
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