“If Trump Is Violating Emoluments Clause, So Did George Washington”
Scholar argues America’s first president ‘openly committed impeachable offenses’ if liberal case holds
One of the world’s leading scholars on the previously arcane Emoluments Clause of the Constitution has filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that President Donald Trump is not violating the provision by having an ownership interest in his private hotel business.
Seth Tillman, an American scholar at Maynooth University in Ireland, is one of the few legal scholars who have extensively studied the issue. He argues the best evidence is the behavior of America’s earliest presidents — including George Washington.
Tillman’s lawyers, Josh Blackman and Robert Ray, who succeeded Ken Starr as special counsel in the Whitewater case, cite a public auction at which Washington bought plots of land in the new capital city.
“If Plaintiffs are correct, then Washington openly committed impeachable offenses under the watchful eyes of prominent members of the founding generation, political opponents, and commercial rivals,” the brief states.
Ray and Blackman filed the legal arguments in the Southern District of New York, where Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government, along with a group of businesses that claim they have been unfairly disadvantaged, have sued Trump for receiving money through the real estate company in which he maintains a large ownership interest. It is one of two legal challenges to Trump based on the Emoluments Clause; the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia filed one earlier this month.