Business Transactions and President Trump's 'Emoluments' Problem
Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 40, No. 3, pp. 759-771, 2017
13 Pages Posted: 21 Mar 2017 Last revised: 31 May 2017
Date Written: March 19, 2017
Recently, it has been argued that the term “emoluments” (as used in the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause and Domestic Emoluments Clause) reaches any pecuniary advantage, benefit, or profit arising in connection with business transactions for value. This position is incorrect. The Domestic Emoluments Clause states:
The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.
If the emoluments-are-any-pecuniary-advantage position were correct, if “emoluments” as used in the Constitution extended to any pecuniary advantage, then presidents are and would have been precluded from doing business with the United States government.
However, George Washington (who had previously been president of the Federal Convention which drafted the Constitution), while he was President of the United States, did business on more than one occasion with the Federal Government ....
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