By now, you’ve probably heard rumors that Donald Trump is violating the U.S. Constitution’s Emoluments Clause and could get impeached.
If, like me, you didn’t grow up using the word “emoluments” around the dinner table, here’s a quick definition: an emolument is “a salary, fee, or profit from employment or office.”
Our framers were pretty darn scared that their newly formed country would be compromised by greedy leaders who accepted gifts and bribes from other governments. So they made that kind of nonsense illegal. (For a fantastic dive into how the Emoluments Clause came to be, check out Zephyr Teachout’s recent book, Corruption in America.)
Here’s the Emoluments Clause in full. You can also find it in, you know, the Constitution; just look for Article I, Section 9.
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.
It’s a pretty simple idea. If you’re running the country, you don’t get to take gifts from foreign governments that could lead you to give them special favor or put their interests ahead of the country’s.
So is Trump violating the Constitution?
According to a group of constitutional scholars, former White House ethics lawyers (including Republican Richard Painter), and Supreme Court litigators, the answer is a clear “yes.” They’re filing a lawsuit Monday morning “alleging that President Trump is violating the Constitution by allowing his hotels and other business operations to accept payments from foreign governments.” For more information on the lawsuit, read this hot-off-the-presses New York Times piece:
Could this lawsuit hurt Donald Trump?
Maybe. The aim of the suit is to get a judge to order Trump to stop taking payments from foreign governments. The suit could also potentially force Trump to release his tax returns – and who knows what we’d find in those bad boys?
What the lawsuit won’t do is get Trump kicked out of office. That’s only going to happen if Congress impeaches him – and that’s incredibly unlikely so long as Republicans control the House and Senate.
Could Trump eventually get impeached?
Yes, but not if Republicans continue to put party ahead of country. The best bet for a Trump impeachment is if Democrats take back control of Congress in the 2018 election. For that to happen, progressives will need to swing Congressional districts back to the left. Learn more here: https://swingleft.org/.