US Constitution, Article 1, Section 9: “…no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without consent of Congress, accept any present, Emolument, Office or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
(Satire Alert, sometime a symbolic gesture may speak to the issue at hand)
They day before Kellyann Conway showed off Evonka Trump’s jewelry on a national morning news show, and President Trump hosted Japanese President Abe at his resort in Florida, I sent a letter off to President Trump.
On a technicality, President Trump and his lawyers have claimed that he can continue to own his businesses because the Constitution does not forbid presidents from owning businesses, as it does congress representatives, and as tradition has required presidential advisors to divest of business dealings while in their positions. However, this argument defies the “spirit of the law” while meeting the technical qualification.
Owning hotels, which foreign dignitaries are more likely to now book reservations in, is a slipper-slope to a conflict of interest. A gestures, such as taking President Abe to one’s own resort (even though President Trump did announce that he was paying the bill), given the Japanese culture, questions whether Japanese tour groups will now add that resort onto their travel itineraries. In either case, Trump’s fortune benefits from the free publicity.
So far, I have heard of two possible cases of the breach of the “Emolument’s Clause”. First, a Vancouver, Canada diplomatic meeting (thus foreign state) meeting was quickly changed from the diplomat’s house to a Trump property, supposedly because of “emergency repairs” to the home. Second, Trump had been petitioning the Chinese government for some years to receive a trademark authorization for his brand. Shortly after the Inauguration, Chine granted Trump that trademark.
Yet, President Trump continues to claims that he will not benefit from his office. He denies that he will face a conflict of interest.
I have written to my senators about my concern. Shelly More Capito informed me that there is a senate bill (S-65, Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act of 2017, H.R.-371) in committee. Investigating the senate’s website, I notice that both the senate and house of representatives have companion bills in committee (S-26, Presidential Transparency Act, H.R. -305) . Time to do some reading and writing to your congressional representatives.
Dear President Trump,
Approaching your inauguration the press, Constitutional scholars, economic pundits, and your lawyer discussed various concerns about you being a business owner and president at the same time. While you have held the view that you can carry on both roles simultaneously, others have advocated that you should divest from your businesses while governing the nation. The primary point is to reduce the appearance and accusations of conflicts of interest between your decisions for the nation and potential personal gain from your position in those decisions.
I advocate that you separate yourself from your business, either by transferring your assets to a blind trust or to someone else, such as your sons, whom you have said your trust to manage your businesses. But, managing what you own is not the same as transferring full authority of ownership to them.
Many prior presidents have lost momentum on their agendas by being tied down to accusations of improper actions or status. We do not need distractions from important discussions about the role of the federal government securing our borders, assuring environment and business sustainability, health care, human rights, etc. President Obama should have released his birth certification early on to silence his opponents over an irrelevant issue. President W. Bush should have reigned in his advisors who promoted engaging in wars in the Afghanistan and Iraq, when their business connections were likely to receive the contracts to benefit from those wars. President Clinton should have confessed to his sexually indiscretion and asked for forgiveness rather than dragging us all through an unnecessary impeachment process.
Save yourself and us a headache by eliminating an appearance of a financial conflict of interest by divesting your ownership. Your authority then can be on the merit of your proposals for congress to debate and legislate.
My employer has a zero tolerance for the appearance of conflict of interest. Occasionally, client wishes to express gratitude for the services we provide. We accept no gifts individually, but also do not wish to insult them for their gestures. Should someone bring in a batch of cookies or a cake to say “Thank you”, we let them know we will put it in the staff lunch room for all to enjoy.
I did not think that sending a batch of cookies with this letter would be well received by your mail room or security officers. Rather, I have enclosed $5 for them to pick up something at the store for the break room.