The Foreign Emoluments Clause and the Washington DC Lawsuit Against Donald Trump

All the President’s Profits

Al Jazeera (2008)

Film Review

All the President’s Profits is a documentary about the current lawsuit again Donald Trump by the attorneys general of Washington DC and Maryland. The suit concerns the continued operation of the Trump International DC hotel, which they assert violates the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.* The latter expressly forbids any sitting president from personally accepting payments from foreign governments.

Since Trump’s election in 2016, many delegations from foreign governments have stayed in the DC Trump hotel or held lavish events there. In nearly all cases, their motives – to curry favor with the President (eg favorable trade deals, foreign/slash military aid packages, etc) – have been really obvious.

In framing the Constitution, the founding fathers sought to prevent foreign policy decisions that enabled sitting presidents to line their pockets to the detriment of the American people.

Trump is the first president in history to refuse to either divest himself of his businesses or to place them in a blind trust.* * Instead he has turned them over to his family to run. The lawsuit alleges he continues to have knowledge of and influence over the operation of the Trump DC hotel (he has visited the hotel 12 times since his election). He’s also able to draw profits from it any time he chooses.

The lawsuit seeks to force him to divulge exactly which foreign governments have stayed or entertained there and how much they have paid for this privilege. It also seeks to make his tax returns public.

The US Justice Department is defending him against the suit.

*Foreign Emoluments Clause: “No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And 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” (from Article I).

**A blind trust prevents a business owner from having any knowledge, influence or benefit from the operation of their business.


3 thoughts on “The Foreign Emoluments Clause and the Washington DC Lawsuit Against Donald Trump

  1. It should be crystal clear by now even to a blind man that’s been planted that Trump is immune to ANY clause, law, rule, regulation, code, legislation or even resolution since I am without a doubt that he has broken clauses, laws, rules, regulations, codes and ignored legislation and resolutions because he is TRUMP! He gets the benefit of the doubt as long as he continues to play the businessman and makes sure that profits are pouring into corporations and that includes corporations that make arms deals possible for Saudi princes who murder journalists and who then get to investigate themselves. Trump states that he “trusts the Saudis to do the right thing” and so that’s ALL we need to hear. No harm. No foul. There is no way in hell that Obama could have gotten away with half the shit Trump has. Even George W. Bush was not as bad as Trump and that is saying something. And yet Trump is already gearing up for re-election and since Americans are seriously fucking stupid, he’ll more than likely accomplish that despite lawsuits and investigations into his numerous felonious business transactions and negotiations. It would seem that Trump is a law unto himself.


  2. You may be right, Shelby. Even so, I think it’s important that the case gets tested in federal court – even if it goes all the way to the Supreme Court. Although the SCOTUS has a 5 person Republican majority, 4 of the 5 have a reputation as strong Constitutionalists.


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