Have you considered the emoluments clause of the constitution lately? Because it seems that those worried about, or angry about, Trump’s business interests are now fixated on this obscure corner of America’s supreme law. While experts argue over whether it even applies to the office of the president, it does provide ammunition for opposing legislators, and potentially even members of the GOP, to argue that President-Elect Trump should liquidate his business holdings and place the proceeds in a blind trust. Blind as in no Ivanka, Eric, or Donald Jr. running things.

The President-Elect has a different view of the matter, based on the legal advice he has received, and feels he can still be owner of his business empire even as he becomes America’s 45th President. How he would achieve an arm’s length relationship in that case remains to be seen.

To know who’s legally right, you would seem to need to mount a legal challenge that ends up in the Supreme Court. But does, for example, a competitor company have legal standing to sue the Trump enterprises due to the undue influence and favor the Trump group of companies could receive with Trump swearing the oath in about 50 days? Ask the experts, seems to be the answer, an answer that no one really has at this point.

The reason that the emoluments clause may have teeth in this matter is the far-flung nature of the President-Elect’s business empire. From Russia to India, to South America, and elsewhere, he has real estate holdings or other ventures. And in the very Trump Tower he has ICBC – the enormous Chinese mega-state-bank – as a tenant. Does rent or profit his companies receive from foreign companies, governments, or institutions count as emoluments? It does seem to be the case. Again, ask the legal and accounting experts. Who are still trying to figure it out.

Politically, this will be an albatross weighing on the new administration. And even assuming Trump decides to somehow liquidate his holdings and place the proceeds in a blind trust, the act of doing so would be a multi-year process involving jurisdictions around the world. Either way, Democrats and other opponents of Trump’s newly elected administration would have field day picking apart the details. Or even demanding – should he not divest – that Congress begin an impeachment process. This course of action was recommended in the NYT article by none other than Bush 43’s former ethics counselor, Richard Painter.

One suspects that Trump feels he has a legal basis, as President-Elect and soon to be President of America, to hold onto to his business empire. That means battling opponents in Congress and the beltway establishment and the media over potential conflicts of interest. This is not a good way to begin draining the swamp, but we are in unchartered territory. And Trump’s battles over his relationship to his business holdings will define a new set of precedents. One way or another.

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