Here's How Trump Admitted He Might Violate the Constitution

December 11th 2016

Willie Burnley Jr.

President-elect Donald Trump has been accused of having many conflicts of interest as he ascends to the presidency, but few have accused him of not understanding what a conflict of interest is.

That could soon change.

Trump told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" that he intends not only to allow his children to run his business while he is president — something many have argued would not end his conflicts of interest — but he also said that he will maintain ownership.

"When I ran, everybody knew that I was a very big owner of real estate all over the world," Trump said, adding that he would not manage operations while president.

Trump faces accusations of a number of conflicts of interest that are unprecedented in the history of the U.S. presidency.

USA Today's editorial board and others have said that the only way for Trump to avoid conflicts would be to effectively put an end to the Trump empire and put his remaining assets into a blind trust.

Trump' refusal to place his businesses into a blind trust could even prove unconstitutional.

The Constitution in Article I, Section 9, expressly forbids any office holder to take any payments, gifts, or titles from a foreign government without the approval of Congress. It's the so-called emoluments clause.

When Wallace pushed back that Trump's plans could present a "huge conflict of interest," Trump argued that it would not:

"I'm not going to be doing deals at all. Now that would be, ... I don't even know if that's a conflict. I mean, I have the right to do it. You know, under the law, I have the right to do it. I just don't want to do it."

Trump is astoundingly and absolutely incorrect as it relates to his personal enrichment.

That's the opinion of critics such as law professor Zephyr Teachout, who wrote the following in a New York Times op-ed, "Trump's Foreign Business Ties May Violate the Constitution":

"The sheer volume of Trump’s enterprises, and his role as a promoter in them, makes [Congressional approval of foreign gifts] a near-impossible task , as does the difficulty of defining which of the transactions falls within the prohibition, and which do not.

"But the Constitution is clear that Congress has an obligation to stand as a check on inappropriate foreign influence. Congressional leaders should be among the loudest voices demanding he liquidate his assets and create a true blind trust, because of the burden that the alternative poses."

Trump's apparent belief that he could be both an American businessman and president of the United States, without the one influencing the other, is in theory hard to rationalize. In practice, it would almost certainly be illegal.