Donald Trump’s presidency came with many question marks over his ties to his own trademarked business and foreign investments along with allegations over his personal fortune and his tax returns. While nothing has been proved over whether Donald Trump will have conflicting interests, the fact that such questions have been asked so frequently and so early into his inauguration is troubling.
During the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump broke with tradition by refusing to release his tax returns. Having made his fortune in real estate, marketing, and entertainment, some have demanded that Trump be transparent over his financial dealings.
Now a lawsuit filed in New York may provide the details that have been lacking thus far. The lawsuit aims to examine whether Trump’s ownership of hotels patronized by foreign government officials is in violation of the Consitution. US District Judge George B Daniels will rule in the next 30 to 60 days as to whether the lawsuit will go forward.
This question is a crucial one. Under the Consitution, emoluments clauses were put in place to prohibit federal officials from taking bribes from foreign governments. The lawyers pursuing the lawsuit argue that doing business with government officials is unconstitutional. They point to the fact that Trump didn’t put his businesses in a blind trust.
Much of the argument depends on the exact definition of bribery and what can be constituted as a bribe as well whether taking a bribe and not acting on a promise still counts. There is also a question as to whether the courts can tackle the issue rather than Congress which has already seen two other emoluments-related lawsuits filed against Trump
If Daniels allows the case to proceed, it means that we will be able to take a deeper look into Trump finances including his much-demanded tax returns, the latter of which Trump has repeatedly refused to disclose. Information regarding his business dealings, personal finances and his sources of income will also have to come to light.
It also means that any evidence of bribery by the President can be held as grounds to impeach and remove the President from office. It is more than likely that Robert Mueller’s investigation will also ask for such information, with or without the lawsuit, to fill in the gaps of their investigation of Russian interference.
More importantly, it will be the first time that the clauses will have been put to the test, especially in the courts. Supporters argue that court precedent on the topic gives the judicial branch the authority to explore the issue.
However, government lawyers deny the charge and seek to stop the case being heard. Their argument is that a violation only happens if an actual act is done in exchange for a payment and that Trump is under no obligation to release financial information. The definitions surrounding the emoluments clauses are unclear by modern standards.As expected, they will argue for such charges to be dealt with through Congress rather than the courts.
The news may hearten those in the Resistance but it all depends on whether Judge Daniels will allow the case to proceed on the grounds stated. Numerous efforts to get Trump to release his tax returns have stalled recently including an effort from Democrats in California. It’s certainly ironic and a little embarrassing for Trump to come back to this topic, especially considering his push for tax reform.
Trump is banking on the fact that voters don’t care about it. He may be right. However, the tax reform plan might urge people to consider his dubious claim that he won’t benefit from it. Those who know Trump’s vanity and selfishness are bound to be suspicious.
Taxes are one of the only certain things in life. If the lawsuit does proceed, then don’t be surprised if people start caring about Trump’s tax returns.