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11/20/2016

Seth Barrett Tillman on Foreign Gifts to Presidents
Michael Ramsey

In the New York Times' Room for Debate, Seth Barrett Tillman: Constitutional Restrictions on Foreign Gifts Don’t Apply to Presidents.  From the introduction:

President-elect Donald J. Trump has many extensive and diverse business interests, including some abroad, and some of his interests involve foreign government entities. In order to ensure against ethical conflicts, both real and perceived, Trump should place his interests in those holdings beyond his personal control, i.e., into an independently managed blind trust. Such a move would be wise and consistent with America’s best political traditions and practices.

Still the Constitution does not always demand that we and our government act wisely. And that is the situation here. The Foreign Gifts Clause provides that “no person holding any office of profit or trust under them (i.e., the United States) 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.”

Does the Foreign Gifts Clause and its office under the United States language apply to the presidency? There are three good reasons to believe that it does not. ...

(All good originalist reasons, too).

Zephyr Teachout (Fordham) has the other view: Trump’s Foreign Business Ties May Violate the Constitution (with contrary evidence from Presidents Tyler and Van Buren).