The Foreign Emoluments Clause: Protecting Our National Security Interests

58 Pages Posted: 15 May 2018

See all articles by Deborah Sills

Deborah Sills

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: March 30, 2018


Classical republican ideals, including concerns that corruption and greed could destroy a nation, played an important role in the formation of our country. Guided by these ideals, several provisions were included in the Constitution to protect the United States from these harms. One such provision is the Emoluments Clause. The Emoluments Clause prohibits United States officials from accepting certain types of benefits from foreign nations, except with the consent of Congress. It protects our national interests by ensuring that federal officials remain free from improper pressures from foreign states and act for the welfare of our country. This provision promotes transparency and accountability in that certain benefits received from foreign states must be reported to and approved by Congress, conferring a meaningful check on those in positions of power. It helps guard against corrupt influences that could undermine, and even destroy, a nation. Especially in our shrinking world, where technology is advancing and our economic dealings increasingly are global in nature, the Emoluments Clause remains relevant.

This Article, which is divided into three parts, focuses on the significance of the Emoluments Clause to the protection of the American public and security of our country. Part I provides a historical overview of the Emoluments Clause. Part II discusses the parameters of the Emoluments Clause and considers the varying interpretations of the provision. Part III examines how the clause protects our national security interests by: (1) requiring that federal officials remain free from corrupt influences to prevent harm to our country; (2) mandating transparency and accountability concerning possible influences of foreign states; and (3) fostering trust of federal officials. These national security considerations should be central to the interpretation of the scope of this constitutional provision. Extraordinary care must be taken to comply with the Emoluments Clause to ensure that the interests of the American people and the United States—not the self-interests of government officials or foreign powers—determine the way in which our country is governed.

Keywords: Emoluments Clause, national security

JEL Classification: K39

Suggested Citation

Sills, Deborah, The Foreign Emoluments Clause: Protecting Our National Security Interests (March 30, 2018). Brooklyn Journal of Law and Policy, Vol. 26, No. 1 2018, Available at SSRN:

Deborah Sills (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
United States

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