Does it feel OK to you that Vice President Mike Pence's taxpayer-funded stay ($600,000 just for ground transportation) at a Trump-owned golf club in Doonbeg, Ireland — some 180 miles and a 40-minute flight from the location of his official doings about Brexit in Dublin — lined President Donald Trump's pockets by way of the Trump Organization?
Does it feel OK to you that Trump suggested that next year's G7 meeting will be at the Trump-owned resort in Doral, Florida, meaning we taxpayers will be paying the Trump Organization for all the preparation, security, and food and lodging of U.S. participants and the foreign participants also will be paying the Trump Organization?
Does it feel OK to you that since Trump became president, there has been more than one occasion when military personnel stopped, refueled and stayed at a Trump-owned property in Turnberry, Scotland — with substantial increases in military lodging costs and military refueling costs at nearby Prestwick Airport. The debt-ridden airport was threatening to close. Not anymore. We're talking a cost of at least $11 million. (No wonder we can't afford toothbrushes for immigrant children separated from their families at our Southern border.)
At each step along the way, Donald Trump and his family are profiting from his office — whether we pay for our military expenditures there, or we pay for our elected, appointed or hired officials' expenditures there; or whether foreigners pay for their expenditures there.
None of this should feel OK to you. It didn't feel OK to America's Founding Fathers when they framed our Constitution. And it should feel as though it violates the Constitution. Because it does.
The Constitution spells out clearly in Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution that the framers would have no part of America as a kingdom, or of its leaders acting like or being treated like kings:
"No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States. And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, 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."
Emolument is defined as remuneration or payment. The word traces back to the Latin word emolumentum, meaning profit or gain.
There also is a separate and distinct, though lesser known, constitutional provision known as the domestic emoluments clause. It is Article II, Section 1, and it prevents presidents from receiving payments from federal or state accounts, save their congressionally predetermined salary.
Laurence Tribe, an American legal scholar and professor at Harvard Law School who has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court 36 times, describes the domestic emoluments clause as "the core anti-corruption and anti-profiteering clause."
"For the Framers, the danger of a president being unduly influenced by some subgroup of the country or using the office to drink at the public trough was no trivial matter, as they'd long watched the English king loot the Treasury and likewise corrupt Parliament and colonial governors, making reciprocal financial inducements the coin of the realm," Tribe wrote Tuesday for Slate Magazine.
Yet these are provisions of the U.S. Constitution that Trump appears happy to violate daily (he says he's immune) by taking profits from foreign and domestic dignitaries, bureaucrats and even service members, who wittingly or unwittingly are helping to line the pockets of Trump and his family.
And no, Trump's forgoing of any part of his official salary doesn't absolve him of this constitutional responsibility, according to Tribe, "because the aggregate value of his emoluments no doubt enrich him — and his children — by many times his $400,000 salary."
Here is but one example: Ivanka Trump, alone — "senior adviser" to the president — reported that in 2017 she earned $3.9 million from her stake in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, the historic U.S. Post Office-turned-hotel that the Trump organization leases from the government and where plenty of foreign visitors and lobbyists stay when they are in D.C.
As Pence's trip and the military stopovers show, a big chunk of Trump's pick-pocketing, er, profiting, is being made on our tax dime. And lest you think our troops need breaks at a Scottish resort that their per diem won't pay for, please remember that their commander-in-chief recently diverted congressionally appropriated dollars from military schools and day care centers like the cramped Fort Campbell middle school on the Tennessee-Kentucky border where some students have to eat lunch in the library. Altogether, Trump diverted $3.6 billion from the military coffers to fund his vanity border wall — the same one he said Mexico would pay for.
When Vice President Mike Pence stays at Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in Doonbeg, we pay for it and the Trump Organization — and Donald Trump — profits. When military flights make a pit stop in Scotland rather than at the usual U.S. military bases, we pay for it and Donald Trump profits. If G7 meets next year at Trump's Doral golf resort near Miami, we (and a bunch a foreign counties) will pay for it, and Donald Trump will profit.
It's not OK. In fact, it feels like we've just had our pockets picked.