Donald Trump is likely weighing his options. If he can’t get healthcare, immigration, tax reform and other initiatives through Republicans in Congress, he has to consider alternatives. All alternatives.
One option is to overhaul his cabinet. Bring in Generals and executives who will stop at nothing to get the job done. Check. Another, to use executive orders when and where legal. Check. He can leverage Twitter and campaign rallies to put public pressure on GOP leaders, and if that fails, broker a compromise with Dems himself. Check and check.
But there is one more option. An option former Vice President, Walter Mondale, was the first to ponder out loud. That is the growing probability Trump will resign. He doesn’t need the job. Or the prestige, power, or headaches that come with it. And if things continue the way they have been, it won’t be difficult to step away.
It so happens the lawsuit filed by Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington (CREW) may be the catalyst that sets a resignation in motion.
Next month, White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush, Richard Painter, along with lawyer for President Obama, Norman L. Eisen, former Minority Counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, Melanie Sloan, and other members of CREW present their case in Federal Court which alleges the president has violated the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause. Unless you’re a legal scholar, odds are you’ve never heard of the emoluments provision. That’s because there’s never been an emoluments suit brought against a government official in our nation’s history. And also, because — like everything else in the Constitution — the emoluments clause quickly devolves into an argument between what is actually written, and what was intended. The language used in Article One, Section Nine of the Constitution is what you’d expect: outdated and difficult to apply.
“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 Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign state.”
In a nutshell, this provision was added as a safeguard against bribery, corruption, and influence from foreign sources. By prohibiting government officials from accepting gifts, money, or benefitting in any way from their office, the founding fathers hoped to avoid situations where leaders became obligated to foreign operatives seeking favor.
A few days ago I reached out to Painter to understand the basis for the CREW suit. Trump has been sued 135 times since taking office, so I couldn’t help but wonder if this was another of a long string of politically motivated stunts, which, in this case, seemed unlikely as it was initiated by lawyers who previously served Republican and Democratic presidents. But if not an attempt to discredit Trump, then what?
According to Painter, the purpose of the lawsuit is to force a federal judge to review all of Trump’s business holdings and obligations to determine whether the president is benefitting from his office and violating Article One, Section Nine. Painter makes the point “We just don’t know — because we don’t know what his business dealings are. He hasn’t disclosed them. This is a way to find out if there are legal issues.” If CREW’s lawsuit prevails, Trump would be compelled to submit his taxes, contracts, assets, loans, etc. to a judge who would decide whether they violated the emoluments clause. Those records would be made available only to the court, not to the general public, thereby protecting the president’s privacy.
I asked Painter about the specific types of business transactions that might be problematic. He explained that when foreign dignitaries book rooms, banquets, and meetings in Trump properties, the president “benefits.” Even if those dignitaries pay “fair market value” and the money goes to a business and not Trump himself, Painter argues these are “emoluments.” Similarly, the recent multi-million dollar contract Trump awarded to a Chinese government-owned company to build the Trump World Golf Club in Dubai also smacks of an emoluments violation. Never mind loans Trump has with foreign government-owned banks.
Assuming the lawsuit proceeds, it will be up to a judge to identify which of the president’s business activities violate the Constitution. Then, it will be up to the president to correct those conflicts, which, in layman’s terms, means divesting valuable assets. Painter indicated that simply putting Trump’s children or others in charge of these businesses will not satisfy the letter of the law. Nor would moving assets into a blind trust.
Now, for a moment, put yourself in the president’s shoes. If, after one year you weren’t able to accomplish a single objective you set out to, and saw no viable pathway to do so, and were then asked to sell your businesses to keep a job you don’t need, what would you do?
Of course, no one knows for certain what the president will do if the current stalemate continues and the emoluments lawsuit forces his hand. But if Mondale — who has been known to be right a time or two in his life — is correct, the stage may be set for Trump’s exit. And there isn’t a person in the country that would blame him.
Rebecca D. Costa is an American sociobiologist, author, and host of the syndicated radio program "The Costa Report." She is an expert in the field of "fast adaptation." Costa’s first book, "The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse," was an international bestseller. Her follow-on book, titled "On the Verge," is scheduled for release in 2017. Costa’s work has been featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, SF Chronicle, The Guardian, etc. For more information, visit www.RebeccaCosta.com. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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