Normally, the Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys represent the United States, a solemn duty. The reason behind that is the department is responsible by statute to operate on behalf of America. The DOJ has until now maintained our democracy’s integrity. Unfortunately, under Donald Trump, all that has been changing.
Attorney General (AG) William Barr has clearly been representing the president’s personal interests over that of our country. In other words, the AG has been treating Donald Trump as an authoritarian dictator rather than as a president.
For a century and a half, the DOJ has read the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause as a method of preventing corruption and undue influence over government employees by other countries. That translated into something of value, no matter how small. The only exception was when the Congress agreed.
When the King of Siam found out that the United States did not have elephants native to our emerging democracy, he sent President Abraham Lincoln three gifts, according to the Associated Press (AP). They were:
‘[A] sword and scabbard, a photograph of the king with one of his daughters, and an impressive pair of elephant tusks.’
Lincoln wanted to keep them, so he went to Congress for permission. Unfortunately for the 16th president, Congress denies his request. In fact, the Emoluments Clause prevents “Engineers and scientists” working for the federal government from accepting “any benefit.” That included “consultation fees or travel reimbursement” from another country. Even part-time federal employees were prevented from accepting foreign money.
However, the DOJ began pulling away from observing the sanctity of the Emoluments Clause nearly three years ago. Now, AG Barr has defended Trump as an exception to the law — a big exception. The president’s personal attorneys have claimed that the 45th president of these United States can accept “unlimited amounts of money from foreign governments.”
Barr said that it was fine for Trump, because the Emoluments Clause only halted reimbursement for “personal service in his capacity as [an] officeholder.” That would be “a bribe.” This interpretation would indicate that anyone owning a company was free to accept, according to The Time magazine:
‘[U]nlimited amounts of money from foreign governments through commercial transactions. In effect, the Justice Department now claims that our founders only wanted to prohibit officials from receiving a second salary from a foreign government.’
DOJ attorney Hashim Moopan said in oral arguments before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, The Washington Post wrote:
‘The only role that the constitution gives Congress with respect to the Foreign Emoluments Clause is to allow [emoluments].
“The Constitution already prohibits the acceptance of emoluments, absent congressional consent. So unless they are going to stand up here and say that what they really want to do is approve them, and that’s why they’re so injured, their argument just doesn’t make any sense.’
President Bill Clinton appointed Judge David Tatel said:
‘Here’s what troubles me about your position. It seems to me that if you were right about standing — I’m not saying you are — it does raise the question of what is the remedy for alleged violations of the Emoluments Clause? And it seems to me one easy answer to that is congressional oversight. But you’re resisting that in other cases. In other cases, you’re saying congressional oversight is inappropriate. So I’m just wondering what is Congress to do in a case where it has reasons to think the Emoluments Clause is being violated?’
The Mueller Report Adventures: In Bite-Sizes on this Facebook page. These quick, two-minute reads interpret the report in normal English for busy people. Mueller Bite-Sizes uncovers what is essentially a compelling spy mystery. Interestingly enough, Mueller Bite-Sizes can be read in any order.