Opinion

Donald Trump is picking your pocket

The simplest reason why the president should be impeached

President Trump suggested a flagrant violation of the Constitution Monday, at the Group of Seven conference in France. At an appearance with Germany's Angela Merkel, he said the next conference might be held at his Trump National Doral golf resort near Miami. "We haven't found anything that's even close to competing with it. Really you can be there in a matter of minutes after you land," he said.

This is part of a pattern — Trump hasn't just proposed stuffing huge sacks of cash from foreign states and the U.S. government into his own pockets, he's actually done it. This profiteering off the presidency is the simplest reason he should be impeached immediately. He is violating the Constitution and picking the pockets of the American people to enrich himself. It's an open-and-shut case.

As the New York Times details, Trump still owns multiple properties in the U.S. where government officials from China, Georgia, Kuwait, Malaysia, and elsewhere have rented rooms or paid for other services. Indeed, Saudi Arabia owns an entire floor of Trump World Tower in New York City.

At the same time, Trump has constantly funneled the White House budget into his own pockets. He has stayed at his own hotels on overseas presidential trips, charged the Secret Service through the nose for protecting him at his golf courses, conducted government business at his own properties, and much more. A report from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington way back in January 2018 found over 500 blatant conflicts of interests in the Trump administration.

Meanwhile Trump's supposed efforts to place some distance between himself and his business empire with a trust are risible. His own son runs it, and Trump is the sole beneficiary. A man can't be said to be separate from a business when he alone collects all the profits and continues to loudly advertise it personally. And because Trump has not released his tax returns, we don't even know exactly how much cash Trump is raking in, or from whom.

There are two different prohibitions on presidential profiteering in the Constitution. Article I, Section 9 bans any national official from accepting any gift or compensation of any kind from foreign governments: "no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], 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."

Then Article II, Section 1 establishes that the president is to be paid a consistent salary, but nothing more either from federal or state governments: "he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them." An emolument is just some kind of compensation — Merriam-Webster defines it as "the returns arising from office or employment usually in the form of compensation or perquisites."

Unlike many other sections of the Constitution, there can be no disputing what this means. One might argue all day what "cruel and unusual punishment" refers to exactly in the Eighth Amendment, or how to interpret "due process" and "equal protection" in the Fourteenth Amendment. But these sections clearly and plainly say the president is not to be paid either by foreign governments or the American government in any way, aside from his salary.

The reasoning for such a prohibition is also obvious. One does not want the head of the government being bribed by a foreign state to slant policy in their direction. The head of a democratic republic should govern according to the needs and wishes of the American people, not sell his services to the highest overseas bidder. On the other hand, it is wildly corrupt for a president to treat the American state budget as his own personal cash register. That's literally Saddam Hussein behavior. A president should be paid for his services, yes — Trump gets a salary of $400,000, plus a pension for life — but that's it.

Presidential profiteering wouldn't be the only topic included in any impeachment case, of course. The Mueller report would surely be another major piece of evidence. At a minimum, it shows multiple instances in which the president used his power to obstruct Mueller's work — the only reason he failed to shut down the investigation altogether is because his subordinates refused to carry out orders to do so.

But Donald Trump using the presidency to line his pockets is perhaps the most viscerally compelling piece of evidence against him. It is baldly unconstitutional, practically the dictionary definition of corruption, and simply gross. The man is already rich, yet he's stuffing himself with taxpayer cash like a starving hog devouring a potato sack. He should be thrown out of office immediately.

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