One of the Senate’s top Democrats on foreign policy wants President-elect Donald Trump to take pre-emptive steps to avoid potential conflicts of interest with his business’ dealings abroad.
A nonbinding resolution set to be introduced by Maryland Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin when the Senate returns from the Thanksgiving break would call on Trump to place his business interests in a blind trust or otherwise divest from holdings that could run afoul of the seldom-discussed Emoluments Clause, which bars anyone with an “office of profit or trust” from receiving gifts from foreign states without the consent of the legislative branch.
“The Founding Fathers were clear in their belief that any federal office holder of the United States must never be put in a position where they can be monetarily or otherwise influenced by a foreign governmental actor. This resolution is intended to prevent a crisis or any misunderstanding regarding the consistency of the president’s actions with the U.S. Constitution,” Cardin, the Foreign Relations Committee’s ranking Democrat, said in a statement Tuesday. “Unless he takes appropriate action, Mr. Trump’s many international financial interests pose a great risk of violating the Constitution once he assumes the presidency of the United States.”
An aide to Cardin said that several senior Democrats in the Senate would be supportive, including outgoing Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and his successor Charles E. Schumer of New York, as well as the outgoing and incoming ranking Democrats on the Judiciary Committee: Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont and Dianne Feinstein of California.
The leadership-level and Judiciary Committee support is an early indication that Democrats could be readying a fight over Trump’s business dealings and foreign transactions once he is sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017.
Leahy would have a prominent role, as vice chairman of the full Appropriations Committee in the new Congress in addition to probably remaining top Democrat on the Appropriations subcommittee in charge of the State Department and foreign assistance budgets.