Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Trump's foreign conflicts of interest: it's not just Russia

Rather than leaving you to wade through the Dworkin Report, I'll give you a link to an article that spells out at least the gist of the problem in one simple, easy-to-understand page.

It even has a short video.

Newsweek isn't one of my favorite news sites. Ever since it declared years ago that it was abandoning journalistic objectivity on climate issues because they were "too important," I have distrusted it. In recent years its flagrant left-wing bias was a factor in its demise as a print medium (admittedly the rise of electronic journalism also has driven so many great newspapers out of business probably played a bigger role).orc But the evidence this article sets forth is not only clear but in its factual content uncontested.

Philippine President Duarte is hunting down and killing drug addicts without trial. He says that Trump has told him on the phone that this is "the right thing to do." Trump won't comment on Duarte's crimes publicly despite our national commitment to the rule of law and the right to a fair trial, That he also stands to make a great deal of money from a deal with Duarte, as documented in the article and video, may be a coincidence, but once again The Donald has at the very least put himself in the worst possible light.

This is just an example of the kind of compromising situation Trump's foreign investments- many in Russia, China, Iran and North Korea- put him in. Our foreign policy cannot be determined by the president's business interests, Trump's promised "solutions" to the problems only make it worse, and the risk to American security and interests are extreme.

In fact, I will say this bluntly: if Trump is unable to satisfactorily deal with these conflicts of interest prior to taking office, they will indisputably be grounds for impeachment under Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution:

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.

While in modern English the term "emolument" means part of the pay or compensation for holding a job or office,  it also had a now-archaic meaning which at the time the Constitution was adopted included any financial advantage arising from the holding of an office. The intent of the Founders is clarified by Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist No.22: "One of the weak sides of republics, among their numerous advantages, is that they afford too easy an inlet to foreign corruption." And that is the meaning which the Courts have consistently applied to the Emoluments Clause.

The only solution is for Trump to rid himself of these financial interests. Putting his investments in trust, as Trump has suggested, simply doesn't solve the problem. As long as Trump continues to hold these interests, which are inherently corrupting and would create the appearance of impropriety even if he did not allow him to influence his foreign policy in any way, he will govern under a cloud and arguably in violation of Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution. He would have the advantage whether he used it or not.

As it happens, his bizarre tilt toward Russia's murderous strongman, his appointment of Putin's closest American crony as Secretary of State, and his appointment of a strong Putin fan as National Security Advisor are already raising the eyebrows of those who are even paying attention.

The vote on the confirmation of Tillerson at State will be a test of whether the congressional Republican party has been completely castrated. Three Republicans- Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida, and John McCain of Arizona- have publicly expressed grave reservations about Tillerson in view of his closeness to Putin, If only two of them vote against him, the same scenario will arise which formed the denouement of Allen Drury's famous novel Advise and Consent, whose subject was the confirmation of a secretary of state: the Vice-President would cast the tie-breaking vote.

One doubts that Mike Pence will have the courage of Drury's fictional Harley Hudson.

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