A fundraising email from the main fundraising committee for House Republicans appears to be a clear conflict of interest for President Trump.
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is in a tough battle to keep at least 24 Republican seats our of Democratic hands following the planned resignations of 13 House Republicans, including senior members of various committees. If Democrats retake the House of Representatives in 2018, it would all but assure President Trump’s agenda comes to a quick halt.
Given the dire circumstances, it shouldn’t come as a shock that the NRCC is pulling out all the stops to get enough donations to send to battleground districts. The NRCC’s Christmas appeal, however, is a new low, as it doubles as an advertisement for the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC:
“Want to experience The Trump Hotel during the holiday season in Washington, D.C.? We’re sending a lucky conservative (and a friend) to our nation’s capital to experience the most magical time of the year,” the email reads. “Get an all-expenses paid trip and stay in TRUMP Hotel in Washington, D.C. for a weekend of Christmas magic.”
Last November, Richard Painter — the former ethics attorney for the George W. Bush administration — told ThinkProgress that then-President-elect Trump’s Washington, DC hotel was an easy way for foreign diplomats to curry favor with the new administration. Article 1, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution (the Emoluments Clause) expressly forbids government employees from accepting such largesse from foreign entities.
Even though the NRCC’s fundraising pitch isn’t for foreign diplomats, it nonetheless presents an ethical conflict, as the Trump family is poised to benefit from the free advertising provided by the email.
It’s important to note that the trust President Trump’s lawyers set up for his business assets is revocable, not blind, and is constructed to allow him to withdraw money at any time he chooses. In July, Office of Government Ethics director Walter Shaub resigned from his position overseeing adherence to federal ethics regulations within the executive branch, saying the current rules need to be tougher.
While President Trump promised to hand off his business empire to his adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, he nonetheless takes pride in being the ambassador of his brand. He frequently golfs at Trump-branded golf resorts in New Jersey and Virginia, and has spent much of his Thanksgiving holiday at his Mar-a-Lago golf resort in Florida.
Jordan Shaw is a New Jersey-based freelancer specializing in national and state government issues. When he’s not writing, you can find him volunteering in Camden, New Jersey, or hiking the Wissahickon Valley Park.