"Emoluments" is not a word often used daily speech. It simply means a "salary", "fee", or "profit" from employment or office. Our Founding Fathers were so concerned about emoluments from foreign governments creating a conflict of interest, they wrote the Emoluments Clause into the Constitution. Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 states:
“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.”
During a recent interview on MSNBC's AM Joy, Harvard Constitutional Law Professor Laurence Tribe told host Joy Reid that according to this article, Donald Trump will violate the Constitution the day he takes the oath of office:
“It’s called the emoluments clause and it basically says no officer of the United States can be on the receiving end of any kind of benefit, economic benefit, payment, gift, profit, whatever, from a foreign government or its corporations or agents. In this case Donald Jr. or Ivanka or Eric — then there would be a close relationship that could never be disentangled by the American public.”
Total divestiture, or selling off of his business interests in foreign countries is basically the only thing that could remedy this issue for Trump -- an issue that Tribe called a sword of Damocles hanging over the president elect's head, and one of the reasons that Electoral College electors may see an obligation not to vote for him. It isn't enough to hand off control to his children because the Emoluments Clause is about ownership and family wealth -- not just the day to day signatures and decisions -- and Trump's children are inextricably involved both in his administration and his businesses. Tribe went on:
"He’s a constant emolument magnet. He thinks of himself as a babe magnet, but he’s an emoluments magnet. And all around the world everybody wants to go to his hotels and not the competitors, and wants to give him a variance or a special land use permit and there’s simply no way short of absolutely liquidating all of his cash and assets into a blind trust and not handed over to his kids."
Tribe said that this issue is not likely to cause an immediate impeachment, but the moment congressional members realize "their reelections will be more helped by a Pence presidency than by a Trump presidency, they can bring out the impeachment weapon."
It is mind-boggling to think that a man who has an impeachable conflict of interest the moment he takes office was ever elected in the first place. Trump is expected to make a speech soon that will detail the way he is going to handle his business interests. However, as Reid pointed out, Trump's own words have not been predictive of his actions. He can say whatever he wants, but it means absolutely nothing until he actually does something.
Watch the full interview with AM Joy, here: