“No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.” -Article I, Section 6
“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.” -Article I, Section 9
“The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased 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.” -Article II, Section 1
emolument n.: the returns arising from office or employment usu. In the form of compensation or perquisites. –Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary
The hereinabove represent those provisions in The Constitution of the United States of America related to benefits and gifts to public officials. In the late part of the 18th-century, the Framers need not have worried much about businessmen owning foreign commercial interests. Today, an increase in worry has become more reasonable and appropriate, in particular with reference to the worldwide foreign holdings and interests of President-Elect Trump.
The concern among the Framers was less that a Congressman or President might profit personally from emoluments bestowed by foreign governments and more that, by bestowing such emoluments, a foreign government might influence the American government. In contrast, the current concern seems more related to Mr. Trump’s profiting personally.
Many of the gang on The Left view “profit” as an obscenity. Accordingly, they demand that Mr. Trump divest himself not only of any command of his company but even of the company itself. Many of those making such demands are professional politicians to whom foreign holdings are as foreign as Uranus.
Should successful American businessmen such as Mr. Trump risk the fruits of their labors — labors often lifelong — in order to hold public office, even the presidency? Without Mr. Trump’s personal direction, for example, what will be the future course of that which he has built over the years? Who knows? Little wonder that so few of the best and the brightest seek public office, leaving the governing of the nation to too many foppish dolts.
Of note, the Emoluments Clause never has been litigated, so no opinions from the Court exist for guidance. That which does exist lies within the Clause itself; namely, the provision that Congress may grant its consent for a President Trump to conduct commercial dealings with foreign governments to the benefit of his company and himself as long as those benefits do not involve activities such as bribery that clearly constitute high crimes and misdemeanors.
The alternative? That only those who have no commercial dealings foreign or domestic can hold high public office, let alone the presidency? Worse, that only professional politicians, preferably professional lawyer-politicians, best apply? Sadly, have not we as a nation already been approaching that state of affairs much to our detriment?
Science tells us that behavior has its consequences. Context and behavior ultimately determine the future course of behavior. Politics and governing are no exceptions.
If we, as a nation, trust Mr. Trump with the nuclear button, should we not trust him to conduct his commercial dealings honestly — dealings that fade into insignificance given the responsibilities of his office? If not, shall we not be consigning ourselves to a fatal combination of mediocrity and incompetence. These United States of America need more businessmen in government and fewer professional politicians, especially fewer lawyer-politicians. Only by establishing the proper context, can we attract the best and the brightest. Does not Mr. Trump now represent the test watched by those best and brightest?
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