Even before Trump was sworn into office, political experts highlighted the potential dangers of him violating the Foreign Emoluments Clause by accepting payments from foreign governments for his business empire. The President soon after put those worries to rest, announcing the transfer of power to his eldest children. But it turns out, Trump may be violating a totally different emolument clause, one that deals with domestic policies.
According to Article II, Section I, Clause 7 of the U.S. Constitution:
The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.
In other words, the President can’t receive gifts or money — aside from his permitted salary — from any government or institution within the United States. While the subject has been pretty hushed in the media, a new Reuters report has recently discovered evidence against Trump. Public pension funds in at least seven U.S. states have reportedly invested millions into an investment fund owned by the Trump SoHo Hotel and Condominium in Manhattan. And according to the most recent review made available to the public, the Trump-owned business racks in an estimated $9 million a year from the investment fund.
While this may come as a loud alarm to government watchdogs and the “ethics squad,” it’s possible the president can wiggle his way out of this tight spot. As he previously did with his foreign businesses, Trump can restructure his company and management so that he no longer capitalizes from the deal. Furthermore, the case will ultimately be left up to the court’s discretion and how closely it interprets the clause. We’ll just have to see if this is the violation to sink his administration.