Ahah!! Caught in the act.

Moving the conversation over from the Stevens/2nd Amendment post, I thought it worthy of its own home. Hopefully The Judge can move his response to my query over here.

So here is the question; why must a sitting president divest himself of all businesses that he created before getting elected? Yes, it is obvious that some conflicts of interest could present itself if left unattended, but this is not what Trump did. Why must a successful businessman sell all of his babies? Yeah, babies. I say that creating, nurturing, rearing enterprises from birth into vibrant power house businesses makes the baby analogy valid.

I don’t remember reading about the Founding Fathers divesting themselves from their farms or business enterprises. In fact, Washington was constantly in correspondence with the property overseer the entire time in the White House (OK, there wasn’t an actual White House then, but you know what I mean). Do you think he got a parcel of land, a slave, or farming equipment at a discount because he was President?

Yes, the original emoluments clause was written to shield against “corrupting foreign influences”, so I guess the last guy is off the hook for all those team jerseys he received free of charge. Receiving gifts, something for nothing, with an implied quid pro quo, or not, on its face it is fraught with peril. Not only are the optics bad, to say, “Why is he giving me this, what does he expect in return”; but now the debt is forever hanging with the question, “How can I be an honest broker with this guy after I accepted a gratuity?”

And with presidents being full of themselves, past and present, to the point of being the biggest narcissists in living memory the prevailing attitude is, “He just wants to acknowledge how awesome I am.” I would be giving gifts to myself if I were he. Reminds me of an old Jesse Unruh line, “If you can’t take their money, drink their whiskey, and fuck their women, without promising anything in return, you don’t belong in politics”.

Much hay was made today by the refusal of a judge to dismiss a current lawsuit against Trump for violating the Emoluments Clause with foreigners patronizing his hotels, particularly in DC.  In reading further we find out that he ruled against just the “no legal standing” motion to dismiss. Of course there are several other motions to throw out the case, which will be ruled on at a later date.

In regards to this particular hotel, Trump has said he will give all profits from foreign guests to charity. Personally, I think this a mistake. No doubt he did it to curry favor with his opponents and demonstrate a concern for even the appearance of impropriety. They don’t care and will excoriate him regardless. Take the money; it was earned fair and square. Any gestures he makes in this regard will be spat on, so don’t even bother.

The hotel in question operates like any other hotel, it sells rooms. The hotel sold rooms before he got elected, they sell rooms now. They also have a staff to pay for and expenses commiserate with operating a hotel. If foreign guests were paying for something that they did not get, then yeah, that would be an emoluments problem. But how on earth does a foreign guest staying at this hotel in any way translate into a “gift?”

Here’s a twist. Let’s say the penthouse suite went for one large before he got elected but now, Donny Jr. thinks they can charge way more because daddy in the White House so now the going rate is two grand. Even this is capitalism at its finest, supply and demand, and there’s nothing unethical about it. Is the Trump hotel the only one in D.C.? Is anyone forcing foreign guests to stay there? Why is a free voluntary exchange of services, a hotel room for a set price, in any way tawdry or criminal?

Keeping one’s business affairs in order and in place is exactly the concept Jefferson envisioned with his citizen /politician model (smart successful entrepreneurs taking a temporary pause from their selected avocation to fulfill their civic duty in Washington, then returning to private life with their livelihood still intact).  Why are we discouraging that in favor of the idea that people should enter politics and then become obscenely wealthy?

18 comments

  1. There’s actually a couple of problems you have with your thought process here:

    1.) that gift giving violates the emoluments clause. I think the specific language is payment for a service or “compensation in receipt of a service” not the idea of gift giving.

    2.) your concept of jacking up the going rate of a room by Goober trump as the height of capitalism, when in actuality THAT would be the black letter violation in the eyes of ethics scholars and legal scholars in the debate.

    The judge narrowed the scope of the complaint to DC and Maryland, so far exempting Trump’s foreign holdings. These are the jurisdictions that successfully pleaded claims of injury. Trump offering up his hotel rooms in DC isn’t a hypothetical violation, per say, but if foreign entities are convinced staying there gets them more influence in the White House compared to state run entities like convention centers we have injury.

    The second one is where you’d be inarguably in violation of the emoluments law, wherein you adjust your rate to twice market value because you KNOW that paying that price in the trump hotel rolls out the red carpet at the White House is a direct “quid pro quo” payment for a service above and beyond just getting a room in a shitty hotel. That directly injured other parties because you’ve directly made an unfair market, and you’ve inferred (directly or indirectly) that paying over the market value is warranted for something, even if unstated.

    Lastly, the president could walk out of this lawsuit tomorrow by simply liquidating the assets, or creating a blind trust to run the businesses while he’s in office. The bushes, Clinton, obama and even jimmy carter either liquidated their assets into treasury bonds (obama) or made a blind trust to run the business affairs (Clinton and carter). Trump would have none of this, and set up a trust that his sons control.

    That’s not blind by any stretch of the imagination, and most of his family operates indirectly or even directly at the highest capacity levels in his administration. So, the dumbfuck did it to himself, and at his own insistence.

  2. 1.) that gift giving violates the emoluments clause. I think the specific language is payment for a service or “compensation in receipt of a service” not the idea of gift giving.

    umm, that is contrary to the stated intent of the statue. It was created to negate corrupting foreign influences. Accepting a gift or title could influence, conducting a free voluntary exchange of services doesn’t as far as I can see.

    2.) your concept of jacking up the going rate of a room by Goober trump as the height of capitalism, when in actuality THAT would be the black letter violation in the eyes of ethics scholars and legal scholars in the debate.

    You do realize that this was just a hypothetical, right? He didn’t actually do this. But I think my premise is still valid. The concept of supply and demand governs most business transactions. Why does Beyonce get to charge 500 bucks a ticket at her concerts while Brittany Spears only gets 100? The doubling of the price was an extreme example but if junior wants to impress daddy that he is a chip off the old block and can get raised rates for the rooms, why not?

    but if foreign entities are convinced staying there gets them more influence in the White House compared to state run entities like convention centers we have injury.

    But you would have to demonstrate that a stay gets you access, so far you have been unable to. Given that there are hundreds of rooms, the logistics alone negate your premise.

    The second one is where you’d be inarguably in violation of the emoluments law, wherein you adjust your rate to twice market value because you KNOW that paying that price in the trump hotel rolls out the red carpet at the White House is a direct “quid pro quo” payment for a service above and beyond just getting a room in a shitty hotel

    Again, you would have to prove that A gets you B.

    That directly injured other parties because you’ve directly made an unfair market

    But the market is transitory. Saturday night stays cost more than Tuesday nights (and on Superbowl weekend we charge triple), the penthouse costs more than the one bedroom suite, and a Trump stay costs more than the Motel 6 down the street. Can’t hotels charge whatever the market will bear?

    Lastly, the president could walk out of this lawsuit tomorrow by simply liquidating the assets, or creating a blind trust to run the businesses while he’s in office.

    OK, here I think you do have a point. Although I would never advise liquidating assets unless it makes business sense, the blind trust thing is viable. Appointing a trustee, someone he has confidence in to run all the businesses, this is something I would have recommended right after the election. But “stupid” has followed him around much of his adult life so making things harder on himself was not a stretch.

  3. Appointing a trustee, someone he has confidence in to run all the businesses

    That’s just it though. He doesn’t have confidence or trust in anyone but family. It’s a principle that served him well in business, but doesn’t mix well with politics.

  4. Are you 100% sure that Trump would make a decision that would benefit America if it meant his business went bust?

    How about a President Clinton/Obama/Bush?

    That’s the tricky thing about governmental ethics – the appearance or suggestion of corruption can be just as damaging. But I guess my question back to you is not about whether he’s technically violating the emoluments clause – it’s about whether you’re comfortable trusting that this and all future presidents of the United States will always put the people of the USA before themselves and their families – even if it’s in secret. Where’s the healthy mistrust gone?

  5. Are you 100% sure that Trump would make a decision that would benefit America if it meant his business went bust?

    False equivalence. There is no evidence that his businesses are at risk of going bust. If this particular hotel was failing he has sufficient resources at hand for a cash infusion. If you are asking would he do something unethical if his businesses were at risk, I would have to answer ,”I don’t know”.

    the appearance or suggestion of corruption can be just as damaging.

    Of course, that is why he removed himself from the day to day management decisions and declared that he would donate all profits from foreign guests to charity. I don’t know what else he could do aside from selling the hotel that would satisfy the critics.

    But I guess my question back to you is not about whether he’s technically violating the emoluments clause – it’s about whether you’re comfortable trusting that this and all future presidents of the United States will always put the people of the USA before themselves and their families – even if it’s in secret. Where’s the healthy mistrust gone?

    Well, in all honesty I would answer this way, I would not expect successful businessmen to have to liquidate their businesses just to run for office, that is not reasonable. I would expect them to keep their business affairs separate from their public office duties. If evidence ever arises that the official is not doing this and is somehow profiting personally from his public position then he needs to be punished in whatever manner the people see fit.

  6. Are you 100% sure that Trump would make a decision that would benefit America if it meant his business went bust?

    I’m sure enough. This is based on looking at the decline in his net worth he’s suffered since running for president. I’m sufficiently convinced that Trump didn’t decide to become president as a Get Rich(er) Scheme, but I understand that this isn’t satisfactory for everyone.

    How about a President Clinton/Obama/Bush?

    Of those three, the only one where I would’ve seen a potential conflict with the Emoluments Clause would have been in a Hillary Clinton presidency since the Clinton Foundation was absolutely dependent on foreign gifts. In fact, I think there’s plenty of reason to suspect that her service as Secretary of State ran afoul of the Emoluments Clause on many an occasion.

    However, she probably would have either shut down the CF or transferred it to new ownership after she won, so it’s hard to say if it would be an issue today over on Earth 2. It’s moot in any event.

    it’s about whether you’re comfortable trusting that this and all future presidents of the United States will always put the people of the USA before themselves and their families

    I get that, but I don’t think politicians who are already rich entering government is as much a problem in our current system as politicians who are more modest entering government and leaving office as multi-millionaires because of how well they served special interests. Career politicians like Harry Reid and even Obama are famous for this.

    Trump should be subject to scrutiny in his business dealings to ensure that he remains free from corruption. But I agree with Rich that it’s unreasonable to expect him to give up his business. The mere existence of temptation isn’t something Trump should have to resolve nor is there anything sufficient he could do to appease the haters.

  7. False equivalence. There is no evidence that his businesses are at risk of going bust.

    It was a hypothetical. (But I will point out that there is no evidence that his businesses aren’t at risk of going bust. A couple of tax returns would help..) My point was that there should be all attempt to remove anything that might influence a presidents decision making away from what’s best for the country.

    Imagine President Lefty McLiberalface comes into office, but doesn’t divest himself of her Kale Smoothie business, or put it into a blind trust. Would you trust her to decide on farming subsidies? Or on foreign relations with countries that imported a LOT of her product? How about if it would help out her daughter’s business?

    If you’re holding Trump to a lower standard than presidents before him, that’s going to apply to Presidents going forward too.

    I would expect them to keep their business affairs separate from their public office duties.

    That’s what a blind trust does. Also releasing tax returns is a good way for us to find out where that business is.

    politicians who are more modest entering government and leaving office as multi-millionaires because of how well they served special interests.

    Yas! Let’s get money out of politics BernieBro!

  8. Imagine

    [snicker]
    Last week CM asked me to imagine what Foxnews would do if Obama got caught banging a porn star. My reply was that no imagination was necessary since we are seeing it play out in real time over at the Stormy Daniels Network. Your scenario was played out exactly with Hillary as Sec. of State all the while accepting money for her foundation. Ditto with Nancy Pelosi using her position to quash E-verify legislation while her winery makes millions off the backs of illegal labor. Did we here a peep from your side about these obvious conflicts of interest?

    As for your question, I already answered it in the above comments. Politicians should be allowed to keep their prior enterprises intact. If evidence surfaces of a conflict, where his public actions benefit his private businesses, lets hear it and we will punish him accordingly.

    If you’re holding Trump to a lower standard than presidents before him, that’s going to apply to Presidents going forward too.

    Accept that I’m not do that, but your warning is prescient, like when the last guy went nuts trashing the Constitution with his Executive Orders, it just makes it easier for the next guy to think he can get away with the same crap.

  9. The problem with whataboutism is that it works both ways.

    So you’re saying that the Pelosi thing and the Clinton Foundation thing were fine?

    like when the last guy went nuts trashing the Constitution with his Executive Orders, it just makes it easier for the next guy to think he can get away with the same crap.

    Exactly.

  10. So you’re saying that the Pelosi thing and the Clinton Foundation thing were fine?

    Do you think they were fine? After all, you playing hypotheticals about what we should do with Trump if caught in a conflict, but since your side was mute when actual conflicts did arise, the only logical conclusion would be that the left has no problem with their guys enriching themselves at the public trough.

    But to answer your question, no, we will not do what the left has done when their guys were caught dirty, and this doesn’t just apply to Trump. No politician should be putting their wife or kids on the payroll, throw them government contracts or let them jet around on government planes.

  11. But to answer your question, no, we will not do what the left has done when their guys were caught dirty, and this doesn’t just apply to Trump. No politician should be putting their wife or kids on the payroll, throw them government contracts or let them jet around on government planes.

    Wait, Trump has done most of that.

    The only thing that bothers me is the kids on the payroll/contracts. When you have some time and need a laugh read up on government employee ethics standards.

    Wives don’t really have any other way to travel around safely. I do not begrudge a first lady or child travel on government planes. Is the Pres going to wait for her at baggage claim? These type of expenses are part of the deal. I suppose you could consider them “perks” but really, the first family should not fly commercial for their safety and the safety of the other passengers.

    Perhaps I misunderstood your comment?

  12. Wait, Trump has done most of that.

    Yes, he has. The secret service budget has been blown to bits over him bouncing around from Trump Tower to Mara Logo then back to the WH, and I don’t like it one bit. Yeah, they get protective details and are restricted in their travel means, but if TRUMP wants to live in 3 different places, he should recognize the bad optics and cover some of these expenses himself. He made a big deal of not taking a salary. When Arnold became governor of California he kept his own protective detail on the payroll (his). This gesture went a long way in showing that he cared about how tax dollars are spent.

    The comment had more to do with those public officials not associated with POTUS, cabinet members and congress critters.

  13. While it’s debatable that trump may be exempted from the emoluments clause, and I’m certain that will be his response to the current lawsuit, shiulkin is inarguably in violation of the emoluments clause because he’s an appointee, not an elected official.

    My problem with the shiulkin firing is my problem with every move this administration makes. While shiulkin is a prime example of “draining the swamp” and holding him accountable is delicious schadenfreude, I can’t (in good conscience) trust the motivations for trump firing him. This administration has lied or obfuscated at every turn and isn’t shy about being completely unethical. So, when shiulkin went to the press yesterday and said he was fired in a plot to privatize was he va, I was like “sounds like trump hard at work lining his pockets.”

    Dignity has a value that can’t be bought and really is hard to repair.

  14. I don’t like it one bit

    Ok. Yes, the rules are somewhat different for Presidents. It is largely tolerated by Republicans, at least publicly. He should not have been allowed to put Ivanka and Jared in his administration and his entourage should not be staying at his own hotels because even if he has divested himself, his kids are not supposed to benefit. Ethics is all about appearance of impropriety as well as actual impropriety. In government, you can’t even take your boss to lunch without consulting an ethics manual.

  15. Trump has definitely blurred the lines, for sure. Ivanka and Jared did not take a salary but placing them in highly visible positions was problematic. First off we must agree that POTUS can “hire” anyone he wants to advise him. Kennedy gave his brother the top cop position, and was a trusted adviser. While Ivanka and Jared were performing “State” type duties, then yes they get travel on the taxpayer, like when Ivanka went to the Olympics and Jared went to the Middle East, they were representing daddy in an official capacity. Personally I’m glad that both went back to New York, not because they sucked at what they did, they didn’t, Ivanka is class incarnate and provided the perfect ying to the president’s yang, but the optics were bad.. I suspect that if Mueller was not looking into Jared’s business transactions made years ago, they would still be by his side.

  16. Kennedy gave his brother the top cop position, and was a trusted adviser.

    Not sure that this would happen today. A sibling on the cabinet would be a hard sell. I mean, surely there are good candidates available from a pool of nonrelatives?

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