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Constitutional Law Expert: Trump Found Two Ways to Violate U.S. Constitution in One Week


While in Ireland this week to attend meetings in Dublin, Vice President Mike Pence is staying at the Trump International Golf Links and Hotel in Doonbeg, approximately 180 miles away from Dublin. Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short said the VP was staying at the President’s property due to logistical and security reasons, though he also admitted Trump “suggested” he stay at the resort. In the wake of President Donald Trump indicating that he planned to hold next year’s Group of Seven (G-7) summit at his Doral golf resort in Miami, constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe on Tuesday decried both decisions, saying each violated a separate clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“Memo to POTUS: There are TWO Emoluments Clauses,” Tribe wrote. “The one you’re violating when you line your pocket by having Pence stay at your resort & commute is the Domestic [Emoluments Clause]. The one you’re planning to violate by having the G7 stay at the Doral w/out Congress’s consent is the Foreign [Emoluments Clause].”

Tribe, who has argued before the Supreme Court more than 35 times and currently teaches constitutional law at Harvard Law School, then provided a brief explanation of the two emoluments clauses and the purpose behind their enactment, beginning with the Foreign Emoluments Clause.

“Con Law 101: The Foreign Emoluments Clause is the core anti-corruption clause of [Article I],” Tribe wrote. Indeed, Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution prevents the president and other federal officers from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State,” without Congress’ consent.

The Domestic Emoluments Clause, he explained,  is “the core anti-profiteering clause of [Article II].” The clause authorizes a fixed presidential salary that cannot be augmented by Congress during the term, and specifically states that the president not “receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.”

Thus, as Tribe goes on to point out, “Congress’ consent (or lack of it) is key to the [foreign Emoluments Clause]. It’s irrelevant to the [Domestic Emoluments Clause]. Trump is violating both.”

He then explained why this distinction was important to Pence’s decision to use tax-payer dollars to fund his trip to a Trump-owned property.

“Not even getting Congress’s consent could cure this constitutional violation: it’s an absolute prohibition against adding from other federal accounts to augment the president’s official salary with [monetary] benefits,” Tribe said.

“Getting Pence and team to stay at the Trump property on Ireland’s west coast and commute daily to and from the meetings on Ireland’s east coast —all to line Trump’s pocket — isn’t just a waste of tax [dollars]. It violates the Article II Domestic Emoluments Clause,” Tribe concluded.

[Image via Spencer Platt/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.