President Trump has repeatedly been accused of violating the foreign emoluments clause. Now, according to a new report from Reuters, he may also be in danger of violating the domestic emoluments clause by way of investments from public pension funds into a fund run by the CIM group, which also pays money to one of Trump’s hotels.
After a recent review of public records, Reuters found that “public pension funds in at least seven U.S. states have invested millions of dollars in an investment fund that owns a New York hotel and pays one of President Donald Trump’s companies to run it.”
The seven states found investing in the fund are California, New York, Texas, Arizona, Montana, Michigan, and Missouri.
Included in the CIM Group’s portfolio is the Trump SoHo, from which Trump still earns revenue, despite having turned management over to a trust controlled by his eldest sons. CIM pays Trump International Hotels Management LLC 5.75 percent of the hotel’s operating revenues in exchange for managing and marketing the hotel.
Because of this arrangement, legal experts have said that Trump could be accused of violating the Constitution because the domestic emoluments clause prohibits “the flow of money from states to the pockets of a sitting president.”
A lawsuit has already been filed by a group of constitutional and ethics experts who have accused Trump of violating both the domestic emoluments clause and the foreign emoluments clause. Trump himself has said that the lawsuit, which does not refer to the recently discovered investment fund, does not have any merit. However, that could change now that this information about him profiting from public pension funds has been revealed.
Reuters spoke to six different attorneys about the legal ramifications of this potential conflict of interest and received mixed messages.
One of the attorneys, David Rivkin Jr., who served as associate White House counsel during the George H. W. Bush administration, said that Trump has not violated the constitution because payments that “have nothing to do with the discharge of duties in office” do not qualify as emoluments.
However, three others said that it could be argued that Trump is guilty of violating the clause.
One of the three attorneys, Jed Shugerman, who is a law professor at Fordham University, said:
‘If you take a step back and look at this transaction, it’s a payment chain from state pension funds to President Trump. This looks like an emolument to me.’
Two others were not as confident as Shugerman, saying that it comes down to a court’s interpretation of the domestic emoluments clause.
Brianne Gorod, chief counsel at the Constitutional Accountability Center, explained:
‘We’re in largely uncharted territory on that front given that past presidents have gone to great lengths to avoid the kinds of issues we’re now confronting.’
All of the pension funds connected to CIM refused to comment on their payments, except to refer Reuters to CIM itself. CIM also refused to comment.
The White House referred all questions to the Trump Organization, which has not yet responded to questions about the potential violation.
Featured image via Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images.