Trump Scoffs at “Phony Emoluments Clause” While Complaining About G-7 Scandal

Yuri Gripas/Zuma

While defending his now-reversed decision to hold the G-7 Summit at his Doral resort, President Donald Trump scoffed at the section of the Constitution that prevents federal officeholders from receiving gifts from foreign governments.

“You people with this phony emoluments clause,” he said, during an interview at the White House Monday, before continuing with a different thought. “And by the way, I would say that it’s cost me anywhere from $2-to-5 billion to be president, and that’s OK, between what I lose and what I could have made.”

Last month, a federal appeals court dealt Trump a legal blow when it ruled that one of several lawsuits alleging that Trump is violating the emoluments clause can go forward. As we explained, the court noted that foreign officials have routinely spent money at the president’s properties:

When Trump took office, he refused to give up ownership or control of his business empire—which includes restaurants and hotels in New York City and Washington, D.C.—though he said he would no longer maintain day-to-day oversight. It’s an unprecedented situation: No other presidents, at least in recent history, have come to office with such an extensive business operation. Critics claimed that Trump was violating the emoluments clause—a section of the Constitution that prohibits the president from accepting payments from foreign governments—because foreign officials almost immediately began spending at the president’s hotels in New York and Washington.

In December 2017, in one of the first big court cases dealing with the issue, a federal judge in New York threw out a suit brought by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a group of restauranteurs in New York. The judge ruled that the plaintiffs’ argument—that their businesses had suffered because foreign governments were instead patronizing Trump-owned establishments in hopes of currying favor with the president—was too speculative. But in a 2-1 decision Friday, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals overruled the trial judge, stating that the plaintiffs had a right to attempt to prove their argument. The court noted that numerous foreign officials have said in the press that they booked events at Trump properties to make a good impression.

On Monday, Trump sought to defend his actions by comparing himself to George Washington. “Other presidents were wealthy,” he said. “George Washington was actually considered a very, very rich man at the time. But they ran their businesses.”

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