Donald Trump’s entry into the White House reminded America that the word “emoluments” is tucked down there in Article I of the Constitution.
“… no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
At first, there was a concern about how foreign diplomats were already starting to make a show over their use of Trump’s Washington DC hotel. They stayed there, ate there, held conferences there, and made sure Trump was aware of their patronage.
But really, no one should be that concerned. Because, as McClatchy News points out, the petty millions Trump’s scraped from the hotel biz in DC are just the tip of a much larger iceberg.
In Indonesia, a local government plans to build a road to shorten the drive between the main airport on the island of Bali and the new high-end Trump resort and golf course.
In Panama, the country’s federal government intervened to ensure a sewer system around a 70-story Trump skyscraper shaped like a sail in Panama City would be completed.
And in other countries, governments have donated public land, approved permits and eased environmental regulations for Trump-branded developments, creating a slew of potential conflicts as foreign leaders make investments that can be seen as gifts or attempts to gain access to the American president through his sprawling business empire.
Foreign governments are pouring out a bounty on Trump, and changing their own laws to make him happy. Meanwhile, the only people who can do a thing about it, are those least likely to act.
These violations of the emoluments clause may seem not just blatant, but huge. So why isn’t Trump worried?
A federal judge on Thursday dismissed a pair of lawsuits claiming that President Donald Trump’s failure to divest himself of his real estate empire and other business holdings violated the Constitution’s provision banning receipt of foreign “emoluments” while in public office.
U.S. District Court Judge George Daniels ruled that the two suits were fatally flawed because the plaintiffs failed to show injury directly related to the use of Trump’s properties by foreign officials and governments.
Apparently, just being citizens of the United States accords no legal standing when it comes to whether the executive branch is selling out the country. That’s a Congress thing. And so long as Donald Trump only has to worry about being reigned in by the Congress … he doesn’t have to worry at all. This is exactly the outcome Trump wanted.
The president’s position is that none of these plaintiffs fits the legal criteria of “standing” — that is, they can’t claim to have been personally injured so they cannot sue. But it is hard to imagine who would have standing if not these plaintiffs. Accepting Trump’s argument would effectively mean that no one would ever be able to sue over violations of the emoluments clauses.
And … there you go. Based on the judge’s rulings, only the Congress can press Trump on emoluments. Which is about as likely as the Republican Congress deciding to spontaneously jump on board proposals for impeachment.
Which makes all this just peachy.
An investigation by the organization Global Witness in November accused Trump of making millions of dollars by allowing Colombian drug cartels and others to launder money through his Panama development, which includes condos, a casino and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.
But everyone complaining might as well sit down … because until it fits into the busy schedule of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, no one has the standing to do a thing about it.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.