Senate Dems Request IG Inspection re: Emolument Clause Violation

U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CN), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) called on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General John Roth to conduct an investigation into whether President Trump has violated the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution by using DHS funds for security when he and his family’s travel also potentially enriches his private business holdings. As the senators noted, President Trump has refused to establish a blind trust for his vast business assets, raising significant potential for conflicts of interest and risking the perception that he is using the presidency for his family’s private gain.

For example, when the President visits his private club, Mar-a-Lago, which is still operating as a business, he brings with him staff, Secret Service, and military aides. If DHS is using its resources to pay Mar-a-Lago for rooms or other expenses, such an arrangement allows the president to personally profit off of every vacation he takes to his properties. A similar problem arises when Secret Service accompanies the Trump children on Trump Organization business trips, and potentially when it provides security for Trump Tower in New York City. The senators highlighted that any payment for goods or services from the federal government to the Trump Organization amounts to a violation of the Domestic Emoluments Clause.

Distinct from the Foreign Emoluments Clause, the Domestic Emoluments Clause is contained in Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution, which reads “The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.”

Emolument has been interpreted to mean any profit from taxpayer resources.

The Mar-a-Lago controversy is just one of the many examples of ways that the president may be directing federal resources to benefit his and his families interests, the senators stated.

The senators wrote, “as you know, President Trump has not maintained this tradition of transparency and accountability. Instead, he placed his vast business holdings in a fully revocable trust that is overseen by Donald Trump, Jr. and one of President Trump’s longtime business associates, Allen Weisselberg. President Trump’s two adult sons manage the Trump Organization businesses, but the President is the trust’s named beneficiary and maintains the control to revoke the trust or change the management at any time.”

“This arrangement raises significant potential for conflicts of interest and risks the perception that President Trump is exploiting his public office for his family’s private gain,” the senators continued.

The president’s vacations to “Mar-a-Lago highlight the significant potential conflicts of interest that exist due to the President’s refusal to divest his assets and place them in a blind trust. The Secret Service expenses potentially incurred to stay at Mar-a-Lago are just one example of the numerous likely conflicts that will arise that involve using Department of Homeland Security (DHS) resources in a way that privately benefits the President and his family. We believe your office must conduct a thorough investigation into these issues and continuously monitor the potential for conflicts and violations of the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the Constitution during President Trump’s term,” the senators added.

Here’s the full text of the letter:

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Hold Sen Dean Heller Accountable for Opposing Overturning Citizens United

As the Koch brothers spend hundreds of millions of dollars in this election to try and complete their takeover of Congress, the price we are paying for the disastrous Citizens United decision is painfully clear.

Before Congress went on recess for the election, Tea Party extremists killed a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. A majority in the Senate voted in support of the amendment, but it failed to win the needed 67 votes to pass because not one Republican voted to support it.

We need to hold the Republicans who helped kill the amendment accountable and who sold out to the 1%.

Tell Republican Senator Dean Heller: Shame on you for opposing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

It’s incredibly difficult to pass a constitutional amendment, and it usually takes decades of grassroots organizing and pressure on elected officials to amend the constitution. The fight to get money out of politics will be no exception.

So while the Republicans blocking a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United is an enormous disappointment, that a vote happened at all is major step in the right direction. More important, we now know who in the Senate is with us and who is against us, and Senator Heller clearly showed us he’s against the majority of Nevadans.

That means we have to dig in, thank the senators who support getting money out of politics, increase our pressure on the ‘no’ votes, and show that we will hold our elected officials accountable for voting with corporations and the ultra-rich.

We have enormous momentum in this fight. Sixteen states and roughly 600 communities have formally demanded that Congress vote to pass a constitutional amendment making it clear that corporations are not people and money is not speech.

Amending the Constitution is not easy, nor is it a decision that should be made lightly. But it’s clear that if we don’t organize to amend the Constitution, the Supreme Court will go even further in allowing unlimited spending by corporations and rich donors.

In Citizens United, the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to unlimited spending on elections by corporations. And in McCutcheon v. FEC, the court struck down limits on how much money individual mega-donors can give to candidates during a single election cycle. Worse, the court’s conservatives aren’t likely to stop there, but will continue tearing down campaign finance protections that prevent corporations from drowning out the voices of ordinary Americans.

We have a tough fight against us to stop our democracy from becoming a plutocracy ruled by corporations and the ultra-rich. And it starts with shaming senators who voted with their corporate donors instead of with the American people.

Tell Senate Republicans: Shame on you for opposing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

WHY the 2014 Election is Extremely Important

If Republicans win control of the Senate this November, and the Tea Party increases its power in Congress, they will do absolutely everything within their power to impeach President Obama.

The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart is sounding the alarm — and I agree with him:

“I’ve said this before and I’ll keep repeating it until the message sinks in for Democrats inclined to sit out the midterms: Obama is not on the ballot in November, but Obama is on the ballot in November. Democrats have it in their power to keep the Senate and save the Obama presidency from the all-but-certain asterisk of impeachment.”

If there is even a 10% chance that Jonathan Capehart is right, we have to do everything in our power to stop the possibility that the GOP will impeach the president — a media circus that would have disastrous policy consequences for what would have been the final two years of the Obama Administration.

The Republicans are serious.  In 2013 Senator Ted Cruz was asked why Republicans hadn’t impeached the president. His answer was that they did not yet control the Senate. Senator Tom Coburn has said he is “watching whether the president was committing impeachable offenses,” and Senator Lindsay Graham said impeachment was a possibility over the return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Really? Over the return of a US Soldier who was a prisoner of war? Now half-term Sarah Palin is calling for the president to be impeached over the humanitarian crisis at the border, arguing that “the many impeachable offenses of Barack Obama can no longer be ignored. If after all this he’s not impeachable, then no one is.”

So, how would that 2-step procedure for Impeachment work? First, the House of Representatives would need to pass, by a simple majority of those present and voting, articles of impeachment, which constitute the formal allegation or allegations. Upon passage, the defendant would be considered “impeached,” but NOT out of office. Second, the Senate would then need to “try” the accused. In the case of the impeachment of a president, the Chief Justice of the United States presides over the proceedings (that would be Chief Partisan Roberts). To convict the accused, a two-thirds majority of the senators present is required. Conviction removes the defendant from office. The Senate could also vote to further punish the individual by barring him from holding future federal office, elected or appointed and to disqualify him from receiving certain emoluments of his prior office (such as a pension or secret service protection).  If there is no charge for which a two-thirds majority of the senators present vote “guilty”, the defendant is acquitted and no punishment is imposed.

If the Republicans win control of the Senate in November, even if they do NOT have a solid super-majority, and if Republican membership within the House remains in control of the Republicans, they will proceed with at attempt to impeach not just President Obama, but most likely Vice President Biden as well.  Their logic will be that he aided and abetted the President in whatever ridiculous “high crimes or misdemeanors” they manage to dream up.

Can you imagine President John Boehner and Vice President Mitch McConnell as the leaders of   our nation?  It would be the end of our nation and everything we’ve worked for throughout our lives.  Sitting this election out is the equivalent of voting for every Republican on the ballot.  We just CANNOT do that.   Not only can we NOT sit this one out, we need to engage others to vote for Democrats up and down the ticket.  We cannot afford to provide Republican candidates with seats of power through which they can achieve name recognition which can be used to fool uneducated members of the electorate into voting for them just because their name is better known (even though their deeds aren’t).

Kristen Spees
Kristen Spees

In Nevada, we can’t do anything about Republican membership in the Senate, be we can improve Democratic membership in the House.  Kristen Spees is running against Republican incumbent Mark Amodei.  We need to engage in every way possible to help Kristen win the race in CD2.  It’s up to us to help our friends and neighbors understand how Mr. Amodei’s attrocious voting record impacts them and how that record predicts how his votes could personally harm them should Republicans take control of both the House and the Senate — and then engineer an impeachment coup to usurp the Presidency and Vice Presidency.  Gone will be many of the programs millions of Americans dependent upon.  Gone will be our national parks and heritage, sold off to the Corporations and Billionaires to pillage.  Gone will be any environmental safeguards to ensure safe drinking water, clean air and the like.

Erin Bilbray
Erin Bilbray

Similarly, Erin Bilbray (Open Secrets) is running against Joe Heck in CD3 which encompasses the southern outreaches of Clark County.  Rural and Urban Democrats throughout CD3 need to engage with both Democrats and independent voters across the district, get folks registered and energize  them to make it to the polls this November to vote for Erin.  Just as those of us in CD2 need to unseat Mark Amodei, those in CD3 need to unseat Joe Heck.  CD3 is a competitive district for Democrats.  We just need to get folks off their couches and out to the polls to vote for our candidate. Make your commitment now, to do just that.

Engage and pay attention.  This could be the election that ends what was our great nation.