As our new President-elect Donald Trump holes up in Trump Tower or one of his other private getaways, he has been receiving congratulatory phone calls from leaders of foreign nations and has even had a private meeting with the prime minister of Japan. None of this, by itself, is note-worthy, other than having his daughter Ivanka sitting in on the meeting, which was a huge breach of protocol.
But the news coming out of Argentina today is an entirely different story. According to reports from the Argentinean newspaper La Nacion, during Trump’s telephone call with President Mauricio Macro, Trump asked for his help with expediting building permits for a project he has in Buenos Aires.
Let me repeat this. The President-elect of the United States of America used his influence to ask the leader of a foreign country for help with one of his own personal business interests.
Under Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution, commonly referred to as the “Emolument Clause” “And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatsoever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
The word “emolument” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the returns arising from any office or employment usually in the form of compensation or perquisites.”
While one could, and I’m sure many will make the argument that Donald Trump is still a private person and not subject to the jurisdiction of this clause, let us be perfectly clear. The president of Argentina was not calling a private citizen. He was calling the man who will, in January 2017, become the President of the United States. He knew this, and Donald Trump certainly knew this. Trump was, de facto, using the Office of the President to obtain personal benefit and gain.
This action by Trump goes far beyond the potential and probable conflicts of interest that will arise from his various business interests around the world. This goes beyond diplomats and others staying in his hotel in Washington in hopes of currying favor. This was a direct and deliberate act by Trump. Not one by any of his surrogates or another member of his family.
This act, should, in and of itself alone, disqualify Donald Trump from becoming President. However, if he is still sworn in on January 17, 2017, then the House of Representatives should begin his impeachment hearings on January 18th. This type of venal behavior should not, and cannot, be tolerated by the occupant of the highest office in our land.