December 9, 2018

While the media try to both sides the Mueller investigation and give time to Trump proxies to scream "NO COLLUSION" endlessly, we already have a prima facie case that Donald Trump has violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution and it's been reported on substantially since the Inauguration.

In Federalist 75, Alexander Hamilton framed the threat thus: "An avaricious man might be tempted to betray the interests of the state to the acquisition of wealth." Scholars have been debating what exactly constitutes an "emolument" since the moment Trump won the election, and nearly 200 congressional Democrats sued the president over possible violations in June. Much of the yammering in this area surrounds Trump's hotels, especially the one in Washington, D.C., which has billed $268,000 in hotel rooms and catering to the Saudi government, and his international licensing deals, which allow foreign tycoons and hucksters, many with connections to their local governments, to pay the Trump Organization more than $5 million a year in order to profit from the president's name in far-flung locales.

But that's all small potatoes. The real money in the Trump empire comes from commercial tenants like the Chinese bank. Forbes estimates these tenants pay a collective $175 million a year or so to the president. And they do so anonymously. Federal laws, drafted without envisioning a real estate billionaire as president, require Trump to publicly disclose the shell companies he owns--but not the hundreds of businesses pouring money into them or even the extent of the money involved.

"The public reading the [disclosure] form doesn't know who is paying the president," says Walter Shaub, who resigned as the federal government's top ethics official in July. The president likes it that way. Neither the White House nor the Trump Organization would provide a list of the president's tenants, much less reveal what they pay.

CREW has been relentless in looking at possible emolument violations and they are legion. It's quite clear that Trump & Family figured this was the way to add even more money into their wallets. And now, the State of Maryland and the District of Columbia are suing Trump civilly for violating the Emoluments Clause.

So what's the remedy?

Keep in mind, impeachment is a political remedy, available only to the House of Representatives. He can't be impeached in a civil court. So assuming that the overwhelming amount of evidence already out in the public is persuasive to a judge, and Trump is found guilty, what happens?

The Founding Fathers obviously couldn't have anticipated someone like Trump actually making it to the White House and they were not specific about what the consequences should be. But the legal violation implies that there must be some sort of legal remedy.

Would it be disgorgement, where Trump would have to pay back whatever sums it is determined he gained improperly? Hell, that could lead to yet another bankruptcy.

Would it be a fine? How much? Are we talking bankruptcy levels?

Would it be a court-mandated (and presumably, court overseen) dissolution of all his business interests that could present a conflict? Or worse (or best, depending on your point of view), could he be forced to sell off all Trump-branded properties?

And while we're at it, are we also looking at Kushner interests? Because it seems like we really should.

Can you help us out?

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