In all the discussion about Mr. Trump's potential conflicts of interest with respect to the emoluments clause, commentators have been silent on one issue: the second part of the clause; the piece that says "without the consent of Congress."
What does this mean? Does it mean that at the start of Mr. Trump's term, Congress can give blanket consent to all emoluments from any source for the whole four year term? Or does it men that Congress will have to consent to each emolument as soon as it is deposited in one of Mr. Trump's personal or corporate bank accounts; if so, Congress will have no time for any other legislation. Or perhaps there is a middle ground with some emoluments receiving blanket permission while others have to be permitted individually. Where will the line be drawn?
Mr.Trump will be completely at the mercy of Congress due to the emoluments clause. Congress can grant permission for Mr. Trump to continue to receive these emoluments. However, if Mr. Trump puts forward populist legislation, like expanding Medicare, that offends the Republican grandees in Congress, they can withdraw this permission and place Mr. Trump in a position where he may be liable to impeachment. The usual checks and balances will have been blown away.
Perhaps Mr. Trump can avoid triggering the emoluments clause. An emolument is defined as a profit gained from services rendered. With some creative accounting, perhaps involving paying down debt, Mr. Trump could reduce the profits from his overseas activities to a very small amount and then assign those profits to the Federal government. Then there would be no need to gain the consent of Congress.
Sent to Boston Globe