Steven Schooner, a law professor at George Washington University, raised serious legal concerns about Donald Trump and his ongoing interest in Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C., especially after a report in The Washington Post that said foreign diplomats felt pressure to stay there. He’s not the only legal expert to raise constitutional questions.
“Why wouldn’t I stay at his hotel blocks from the White House, so I can tell the new president, ‘I love your new hotel!’ Isn’t it rude to come to his city and say, ‘I am staying at your competitor?”one Asian diplomat told The Post.
During an appearance on MSNBC Monday morning, Schooner not only raised issues about the ethics of the situation, but also said that Trump could have an “impeachment issue because you have foreign states basically paying money to the Trump Organization by using their hotels.”
The Trump Organization entered into a contract with the General Services Administration to lease the Old Post Office pavilion, a 117-year old property, in order to open the hotel. The Office of Government Ethics apparently determined ethics rules preventing other federal employees from making money from their positions do not apply to the President. Schooner disagrees.
“The contract specifically says that no elected official of the United States government can share or benefit from the lease. It’s a 60 year lease with the GSA but the language is unequivocally clear, ” Schooner said, “GSA should end the contract.”
More troubling, Schooner also points to the Constitution’s “Emoluments Clause,” which says that “no person holding any office of profit or trust under” the United States “shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.” He says this could eventually be grounds for an “impeachment issue” for Donald Trump.
He’s not the only one, Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe agrees:
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) November 19, 2016
Richard Painter, who previously served as chief ethics counsel to President George W. Bush and was a Hillary Clinton supporter, told ThinkProgress that if diplomats seek Trump’s favor by staying at his hotel this “looks like a gift,” and therefore is the kind of favor the Constitution seeks to prevent.
Trump said he will turn over his businesses, including hotels to a “blind trust” run by his children. But many experts don’t think that will go far enough to shield the President-elect from future conflicts of interest.
“This is a top priority at the Organization and the structure that is ultimately selected will comply with all applicable rules and regulations,” the Trump Organization said in a statement to The Post.
[screengrab via Youtube]