A new bill written by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Massachusetts) wants to make it explicitly illegal for Donald Trump to use the power of his office for personal profit.
Rep. Swalwell’s Preventing Foreign Corrupt Influence Act would make it a jailable offense for any president, vice president, as well as their family members and any businesses they own to receive anything of monetary value from foreign governments — or any business in which a foreign government has a controlling stake.
“Unlike other Presidents, Donald Trump has failed to distance himself from his private business interests while serving our nation, and so he and his family are getting richer from Trump companies that receive money and benefits from foreign powers,” Rep. Swalwell said in a public statement. “Americans deserve to know that their President is working for them and only them, not having his own wallet fattened by foreign interests.”
President Trump has notably not put his assets in a blind trust, but in a revocable trust that is managed by his eldest son, Donald Jr., and the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer. Trump can also make withdrawals from his trust at any time without having to disclose those withdrawals to the public. White House attorneys have also argued that Trump is not prohibited from making a profit off of foreign dignitaries who stay and book events at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, as the Philippines did in April while trying to negotiate a favorable trade deal with the U.S.
The profit motive may also factor into how the current administration conducts foreign policy. As Quartz reported in the wake of Trump’s summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, Trump opined that North Korea’s beaches would be ripe for hotel and condominium development (which his family business coincidentally specializes in).
And of course, Trump has, in the past, received a plethora of ornate and expensive gifts from foreign governments. As Grit Post contributor Ken Klippenstein wrote in The Daily Beast last year, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia gifted Trump with everything from swords and daggers and holsters to gold coins and official portraits during his first official visit to the Middle Eastern monarchy. Several months later, the U.S. sold Saudi Arabia roughly $1 billion in weapons even as human rights watchdogs decried the country’s role in perpetuating the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
Rep. Swalwell pointed out that while the U.S. Constitution’s Emoluments Clause is supposed to prevent government officials from being financially compromised by foreign powers, his bill adds teeth to what our country’s founding documents already laid out.
“It’s long past time that Congress takes a meaningful stand against any effort to buy and sell our White House,” Swalwell stated. “America’s Presidents and Vice Presidents must not enrich themselves from foreign sources – they should hold themselves to a higher standard, and if they won’t, it’s our job to do it for them.”
Jake Shepherd is a freelance writer from Cleveland, Ohio. He enjoys poring through financial disclosure statements, spirited debate, and good scotch. He remains eternally optimistic about the Browns. Email him at jake.d.shepherd.21 (at) hotmail (dot) com.