Trump nation

George W. Bush lawyer: Trump could violate Constitution on first day in office

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

A lawyer for George W. Bush says Trump needs to get things in order right away or he’s going to be violating the Constitution come January.

That’s what Richard Painter, a University of Minnesota law professor who previously served as chief ethics counsel to the former president, told Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress. The issue: diplomats trying to win favor with the president-elect plan to stay in his hotel. Here’s how Millhiser puts it:

The Constitution’s “Emoluments Clause” provides that “no person holding any office of profit or trust under” the United States “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.”

The diplomats’ efforts in seek[ing] Trump’s favor by staying in his hotel “looks like a gift,” Painter told ThinkProgress in an email, and thus is the very kind of favor the Constitution seeks to prevent.

Basically, that part of the Constitution exists so other countries can’t buy influence with the U.S. government. Since the diplomats would be staying in the hotel to win favor with Trump, it’s not legal. About 100 diplomats gathered at the hotel this week “to sip Trump-branded champagne, dine on sliders and hear a sales pitch about the U.S. president-elect’s newest hotel” according to The Washington Post.

In interviews with a dozen diplomats, many of whom declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak about anything related to the next U.S. president, some said spending money at Trump’s hotel is an easy, friendly gesture to the new president.

“Why wouldn’t I stay at his hotel blocks from the White House, so I can tell the new president, ‘I love your new hotel!’ Isn’t it rude to come to his city and say, ‘I am staying at your competitor?’ ” said one Asian diplomat.

Trump’s hotel isn’t the only ethics violation he needs to be concerned about. Earlier this week, Trump met with some Indian business partners even though his three eldest children (who were also at the meeting) are supposed to be running his blind trust. His daughter Ivanka Trump, who’s helping run Trump Organizations, also accompanied him to a meeting with Japan’s Prime Minister, raising concerns about how separate Trump is keeping his office from his family’s businesses.

One thing’s for sure: Trump’s going to have to get squeaky clean with his finances before he takes office and find out how to separate his business interests from his public office because lots of people are keeping a close eye.