The White House on Thursday confirmed that next year’s Group of Seven (G-7) summit will be held at the Trump National Doral Golf Club in Miami, Florida. The announcement immediately prompted accusations from legal experts that such a move would be a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.
Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney quickly went into damage control mode to defend the decision, saying that President Donald Trump was “not making any profit” by hosting the confab and that his property would accommodate the event “at cost.”
“[The president] is not making any money off of this,” Mulvaney insisted, “He doesn’t need much help promoting his brand.”
The OMB director’s assertion went over like a lead-filled balloon.
“Mulvaney’s statement that Trump will not profit personally from this decision is total BS,” Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe said in an email to Law&Crime and on Twitter. “This will violate the Domestic Emoluments Clause of Article II for sure. Of course it will also violate the Foreign Emoluments Clause of Article I.”
Progressive Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) lodged his disagreement with the move by citing language from the Emoluments Clauses.
“This is a brazen violation of the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses,” Raskin tweeted. “The President may not receive one dollar from a ‘King, Prince or foreign State’ without obtaining Congressional consent and he may not accept ‘any other Emolument from the United States’ beyond his salary.”
Delaney Marsco is Ethics Counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, a non-partisan government accountability watchdog organization.
In a phone interview with Law&Crime, Marsco excoriated the Trump Administration’s controversial G-7 decision.
“From an ethics perspective this is kind of a worst nightmare,” Marsco said. “There have been concerns from the start that the president would use his position to promote his personal brand and line his and his family’s pockets if he failed to divest from his businesses.”
“The federal conflict of interest laws would require any other executive branch employee to divest from their business,” she continued. “Those laws don’t apply to the president but every other modern president have behaved as if those laws did apply.”
Marsco also addressed the potential emoluments issues:
We’re seeing the logical outcome of the president’s failure to divest. This also raises foreign emoluments questions. It does strike me as unwise for someone currently facing lawsuits over emoluments issues to force foreign governments to spend money at a resort that he still owns. It’s a mess.
At issue here are two sections of the U.S. Constitution: (1) the Title of Nobility Clause located at Article I, Section 9, Clause 8; and the Presidential Emoluments Clause located at Article II, Section 1, Clause 7–collectively and colloquially known as the Emoluments Clauses.
These clauses have long been interpreted to mean that U.S. presidents cannot receive excessive remuneration from either foreign or domestic sources during their tenure as president if such money is paid as a result of their being president.
President Trump has frequently faced political criticism–and several different lawsuits–over his alleged use of the presidency to benefit his family business and brand. Such criticism has come from congressional Democrats and even from within his administration.
“It is harder to imagine a more clear example of exactly what the emoluments restrictions were designed to prevent than the president of the United States literally hosting international events in his official capacity at his privately owned properties,” national security attorney Bradley P. Moss told Law&Crime via email.
Thursday’s announcement allowed for cross-partisan panning as well.
“He has bought himself an enormous headache now with the choice of this. This is about as direct and profound a violation of the Emoluments Clause as one could create,” Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano told Neil Cavuto on Cavuto: Coast to Coast.
[image via NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images]