Trump/Pence: How many Violations of the Constitution?

By Christopher R Rice

A President is impeachable if he attempts to subvert the Constitution. -James Madison

Donald Trump stood in the shadow of the US Capitol and took an oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

“I wouldn’t say he’s bumping into the Constitution, he’s crashing through it,” said Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe, who has joined litigation against the new president on a separate matter. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my lifetime.”

TheAtlantic: The election of Donald Trump was, in procedural terms, scrupulously fair. I hold no dark suspicions of altered vote counts or intimidation at the polls. We may wish the Voting Rights Act had not been gutted by the Court; but the election of 2016 followed the law of 2016. Clearly a large proportion of American citizens—not as many as voted for Hillary Clinton, but still, under our strange system, enough—wanted Trump as their president and now hope that he fulfills the loud promises he repeatedly made to the country.

Like an admissions officer at Trump University, he offered Americans a bag of magic beans and asked them in exchange to hand over their rights and their form of government.

The Constitution is broken, and I don’t know how, or whether, it will be fixed.

The minute Trump was sworn in, he violated Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution, known as the emoluments clause.

1.) CNBC: President Donald Trump is being accused of violating a part of the U.S. Constitution that the founders put in place to curb corruption.

The attorneys general for the District of Columbia and Maryland filed a lawsuit making those claims on Monday. They accuse Trump of improperly accepting payments from foreign governments.

Their argument is that Trump — who kept ownership of his businesses when he became president of the United States — is violating the so-called emoluments clauses of the Constitution.

One of the clauses was written to ensure that U.S. government officials would not be corrupted by favors or gifts from foreign governments.

But the president retained actual ownership of the companies, meaning that he still makes money from them. Foreign governments — including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Georgia — have bought rooms or held events at Trump’s D.C. hotel since he took office. The Embassy of Kuwait even switched an earlier booking at the Four Seasons to the Trump hotel, according to the The Washington Post.

President Jimmy Carter gave his agricultural holdings to an independent trustee. Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton put investments into blind trusts.

Representatives for Trump had argued that selling his sprawling business empire or putting it into a blind trust would have been too difficult.

In January, Trump promised to track profits from foreign governments and donate them to the U.S. Treasury. But the Trump Organization has not tracked those payments. Instead, it has suggested that it’s the responsibility of those foreign governments to report the transactions, NBC News reported last month.

The attorneys general contended that Trump’s presidency has created a situation in which states could feel compelled to make policy decisions that help his businesses.

The lawsuit is the second filed against Trump over emoluments, and it’s the first filed by government entities. Watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sued the president earlier this year.

2.) President Donald Trump’s daughter and senior adviser Ivanka will receive more than a million dollars from the family business this year, according to McClatchy‘s D.C. bureau, raising fresh concerns about apparent conflicts of interest that seem rampant among key members of the Trump administration.

Ivanka Trump, as an unpaid senior adviser at the White House, has done “everything from lobbying the Senate on tax policy to representing her father at a G20 summit of world leaders”—but that’s not stopping her from taking money from businesses associated with the Trump Organization, “the sprawling family real estate empire now run by two of her brothers.” As McClatchy reports:

When her father was sworn in, Ivanka Trump resigned her numerous vice president positions with the Trump Organization but she planned to continue to receive money from its businesses, according to her financial disclosure report filed last year, which outlined her future relationship to the companies.

Each year starting in 2017, she was expected to receive a total of $1.5 million from three companies affiliated with the Trump Organization. She was expected to receive more money from additional Trump Organization businesses but the other amounts were not detailed.

The companies involve at least five projects that have come under scrutiny for possible ethics and legal violations.

Her “continued relationship with the businesses affiliated with the Trump Organization creates countless potential conflicts of interest prohibited by federal law and federal ethics standards as she works as a special assistant to the president,” McClatchy explained. “And just like her father, she is being accused of violating the so-called emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution that forbids government officials—not just presidents—from accepting gifts from foreign governments without the approval of Congress.”

A team of prominent constitutional scholars, Supreme Court litigators and former White House ethics lawyers intends to file a lawsuit alleging that President Trump is violating the Constitution by allowing his hotels and other business operations to accept payments from foreign governments.

3.) The report comes as Ivanka Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner—who is also a senior adviser to the president—faces increasing scrutiny over potential conflicts of interests with regard to his White House post and his continued involvement with his family’s real estate firm.

4.) USATODAY: Political interference in a law enforcement matter for personal and corrupt purposes — whether through pardons or personnel moves or directing the conduct of an investigation — is unconstitutional. That’s why it is so concerning that John Dowd, when he was one of President Trump’s lawyers, reportedly discussed the possibility of pardons for Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort with their lawyers.

By disregarding these norms, the president and the White House are also violating the Constitution. As we recently explained in a brief that we filed along with other former high-ranking Justice officials of both parties, the Constitution limits the president’s ability to interfere with individual law enforcement matters. And it will always be unconstitutional for the president to interfere with law enforcement based on personal or corrupted interests — for example, to stop an investigation of him or his associates.

VanityFair: Trump: “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself,” he wrote on Twitter.

Trump’s use of his power to grant clemency to date has already been controversial. After pardoning Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio last year, Trump granted another questionable pardon to conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza last week, while also floating the possibility that he might also offer clemency to lifestyle mogul Martha Stewart and commute the sentence of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Some interpreted the pardon for D’Souza and the president’s remarks about Stewart and Blagojevich as a signal to individuals ensnared in the Mueller probe that their loyalty to him would be rewarded. “What I think he is doing though, is undermining public corruption investigations by basically saying that if you are a corrupt public official you are going to get a pass from me,” Robert Grant, a top former F.B.I. agent who headed the F.B.I.’s Chicago office during the Blagojevich investigation, told me last week. “He is signaling to people who might be witnesses against him, his family or his business interests, ‘hold the line, don’t give up anything, don’t roll over for the prosecutors because even if you get prosecuted, I am going to give you a free pass.’”

5.) ConstitutionCenter: President Trump has issued several immigration orders, ranging from those regulating immigration into the United States as well as those regulating immigrants already present in the country. Legal challenges have cropped up nationwide against these orders.

Slate: The Trump administration poses a unique threat to the rule of law.

Habeas Corpus. Lawyers at airports have been filing habeas corpus petitions around the clock for people being detained. In recent years, the Supreme Court strengthened the protections of habeas corpus for noncitizens repeatedly in rulings in cases brought by Guantánamo detainees. Less known were earlier rulings strengthening protections for noncitizens in detention facing removal, such as Zadvydas v. Davis. The national security or “plenary” power over immigration did not faze the justices in such rulings.

As law professors who teach constitutional law and immigration law, we fully recognize that executive power over immigration has long been described by courts as broad, even “plenary,” and sometimes able to, well, trump the rights of noncitizens. Yet that power is also committed to Congress, which passed no law authorizing this order. And noncitizens still have constitutional rights, sometimes quite strong ones.

6.) Family Reunification Rights.* The tragic stories of separated families bring out yet another constitutional right at stake that few have commented on: The Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized the importance of the fundamental right to family relationships. Family reunification is also of primary importance in immigration law.

7.) The Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges emphasized how multiple constitutional rights magnified the harm of denying same-sex couples the right to marry. “The Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause are connected in a profound way,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. The constitutional violations in that case were made worse because there was discrimination—over something as important as the fundamental right to marry. Today, these constitutional violations are worse because the order discriminates on the basis of religion, nationality, and ethnicity, over rights as important as due process, the right to family relationships, and the right not to be excluded unlawfully. The equal protection, due process, First Amendment, habeas, and fundamental rights violations that we describe are important standing along but even more devastating to the legality of the order when seen in tandem. As we have written in a 2015 article, constitutional rights magnify their power when they share reinforcing interests.*

8.) TheAmericanConservative: The U.S. and its allies have committed a flagrant violation of international law, and Trump has trampled on the Constitution once again.

NationalReview: Unfortunately, the section of the Constitution that gives the power to declare war to Congress, and Congress alone, has become a section of the Constitution that most of our politicians — and our pundits — ignore. Debates on the issue these days are usually between only two sides — “He should” vs. “He shouldn’t” — while the important question of “Can he?” goes completely ignored. It often feels as though Article I, Section 8 has been all but forgotten, which is why I was so glad to see the recent comments from Senator Bernie Sanders.