Trump: Are Business Transactions Legal?

By Rachel Giffin

Recent actions by President Trump regarding his international business transactions have sparked conversation in the media. The question at the top of the pile is that according to the Constitution, “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States] shall, without the Consent of Congress, accept of [sic] any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State” (Article 1, Section 9). So is it legal for President Trump to continue with his business holdings now that he is employed by the state even if Congress does not approve?

The Emoluments Clause, mentioned above, was written by the Founders of our nation to ensure that economic conflicts of interest would not get in the way of anyone “holding an Office of Profit or Trust,” such as President, Speaker of the House, or Secretary of State, doing right by the citizens they serve. However, it has no provision for a business holding connected to the president that is being held at arm’s length.

A possible concern for American citizens is that other politicians might use President Trump’s business as a means of earning favor with the President; but as this is not a foreign transaction, it is also a grey area running underneath the Emoluments Clause, and is up for debate.

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