On the rebooted White House petitions page, there’s currently just a single item:
Immediately release Donald Trump's full tax returns, with all information needed to verify emoluments clause compliance.
Oddly enough, the ability to sign this petition was disabled at the time of this article was written. But even assuming that the page was working properly, and the petition racked up the requisite number of votes, there’s a good reason to think it would never be acted on. Because Trump would have to admit that he was in violation the moment he took the oath.
The moment Trump takes that oath, he will violate it. This is because Donald Trump has refused to divest himself of his business, both domestic and foreign and will receive, as a result, on January 20, 2017, emoluments from foreign sources and domestic governments, federal, state and local.
Just to remind everyone how tightly his business and his regime will be entangled, Trump stopped by his hotel to shake a few hands last night. Though don’t expect to see much press coverage.
The Trump International Hotel in Washington is banning the media from its premises during inauguration week.
If you need another reminder, Trump will supposedly stop by his hotel as part of the inaugural parade. In fact, it may be the only point where he climbs out of his car.
Trump’s DC hotel is far from the worst example of how Trump’s businesses benefit from his position, but it is one of the most visible. And his hotel lease runs squarely into the Constitution.
Article 2 of the Constitution provides, in pertinent part:
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.
This provision states, in unmistakable terms that the president of the United States can receive only his salary as an “emolument” and is expressly barred from receiving any other compensation from the federal government and the States (which necessarily comprises local governments as well as they are creatures of State creation).
The president can’t take, no matter how indirectly, a dime of additional money from the government. Neither can he take a dime from foreign governments. Petition or no petition, Donald Trump is now in violation of the emoluments clause.
What can Trump do? What presidents have always done—divest himself of his holdings. It’s not a complex analysis.
Can he do something else? Will a blind trust place him in compliance with the Emoluments Clause? No it will not. The problem is not just that Trump will know about his emoluments (and let’s face it, Trump can’t unknow what he holds anyway), it is that he will receive them. If Trump wants to be president and not violate the Constitution, he has to divest.