Tuesday, September 12, 2023

There Oughta Be a Law. And Maybe One Day There Will Be.

Speaking of emoluments, I had no idea of this, but apparently Democrats, I guess in the House Oversight Committee, are in fact working on the investigation of the greedy and plainly unconstitutional hoovering of foreign government money into his businesses of Donald Trump during his presidential term, as reported in the New York Daily News in mid-August:

Amid GOP howls over the Hunter Biden case, lawmakers are scrutinizing former President Donald Trump’s business dealings during his time in office, Rep. Jamie Raskin said Sunday.

The Maryland Democrat promised a new report on cash that foreign governments gave to Trump businesses, though he did not go into detail.

“We’re going to release a report about all of the foreign government emoluments — millions of dollars — we can document that Donald Trump pocketed at the hotels, at the golf courses [and] business deals when he was president and that his family got,” Raskin told ABC’s “This Week.”

It seems to me this must be entirely Raskin's own baby—the preeminent constitutional scholar of the House, you could say of the entire Congress; he's been the lonely voice of protest against Trump's avid seizing of domestic emoluments as well, proposing a bill on the subject in March 2018:

Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) has introduced legislation to help stop President Donald Trump’s ongoing violations of the Constitution’s Domestic Emoluments Clause. Raskin’s bill, the Heightened Oversight of Travel, Eating, and Lodging (HOTEL) Act (H.R. 5304) would prohibit government agencies from using taxpayer dollars to stay or dine at hotels, restaurants, and other properties owned by the President, the President’s family, or the head of any other executive agency....

“If the President does not have enough respect for the Constitution to refuse extra government payments beyond his official salary,” said Congressman Raskin, “then we must cut the unlawful payments off at the source.”

Recent reports demonstrate the need for such a ban: This week, Americans learned that the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) had spent a staggering $138,093 in travel expenses at 12 different Trump properties in the first eight months of the Trump administration. Trump’s expensive Mar-a-Lago resort charged the U.S. Secret Service at least $63,700 between February and April of 2017 alone. It also billed the U.S. Coast Guard $1,092 for a two-night stay by an employee traveling on official government business. The Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., which secured a 60-year lease from the government in 2013, presents significant conflicts of interest and has also received taxpayer funds. Last month, CNN reported that the General Services Administration (GSA), the government entity tasked with overseeing the lease and protecting taxpayers’ interests in the agreement, was billed $1,650 by the Trump International Hotel and its onsite restaurant. This payment merits extra scrutiny, as it occurred shortly before the GSA suddenly reversed its previous determination that Trump’s ownership of the hotel would violate a provision of the agreement barring elected officials from deriving any benefit from the lease.

It's just immensely heartening to me that this is going on, not just because I've been obsessed with the issue (most recently last week) and really anxious for Trump's corrupt conduct to be exposed once and for all, but even more because it's happening in Congress, where these problems can and should be corrected by legislation: it's long past time that there should be ways of enforcing the constitutional ban on bribery, especially bribery of the president, and extortion. We need to make sure that no president ever again enters office in the hope of picking thr public's pocket on the one hand and selling the nation's foreign policy for his own personal gain.

And it could happen if we give Joe Biden a congressional majority in his second term.

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