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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Backlash may have stopped Trump from this Constitutional breach

The front entrance is seen to the Trump

The front entrance is seen to the Trump National Doral golf resort owned by President Donald Trump's company on October 17, 2019 in Doral, Florida.  Credit: Getty Images/Joe Raedle

Caving to pressure, President Donald Trump on Oct. 19 reversed an announcement that his National Doral Hotel in Florida would host a conference of foreign governments next June "at cost."

The president was still sulking three days later when asked about what he called "this phony Emoluments Clause" which is in fact quite real.

Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution is called the "Title of Nobility Clause." It bars the holder of any U.S. office from accepting "any present" or "any emolument" [as in cash] … of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state."

Andrew Napolitano, a legal analyst for Fox News, said having the Doral host the Group of 7 next year would be, "about as direct and profound a violation of the emoluments clause as one could create."

Trump's huffing and puffing prompts the question: Has another modern U.S. president trashed as "phony" a clause of the republic's founding document, which he swore to protect and defend? 

Previously, Trump has claimed that Article 2 gives him unfettered powers. He also disparaged an impeachment inquiry  as a "lynching" and claimed he can decree  an end to birthright citizenship assured under the 14th Amendment. 

The purpose of the emolument clause is plain.

An emolument is a salary, fee or profit from office. "The clause sought to shield the republican character of the United States against corrupting foreign influences," says the conservative Heritage Foundation's Guide to the Constitution. 

Public documents indicate the Doral is in financial decline. While Trump denied he'd profit from the deal, chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said: "At the end of the day, you know, he still considers himself to be in the hospitality business."

Bigger conflict-of-interest issues remain. Last week the Trump family suddenly let it be known that it may sell the lease for its Washington, D.C., hotel — where foreign governments have paid to lodge their officials during the Trump presidency.

At the same Cabinet meeting where he called a relevant part of the Constitution "phony," Trump said he sacrificed between $2 billion and $5 billion in income by becoming president.

But Trump for decades has publicly inflated his financial success. There is no way to document this boast of billions lost, especially since he's the first major-party president or candidate since the  1970s to refrain from releasing even redacted income tax forms. 

Now Trump is saying Camp David, where President Barack Obama hosted the G-7 in 2012, will be considered for next year's gathering. Earlier, Mulvaney trashed that summit, asserting that its attendees found it to be a “miserable” venue.

Shortly before the Doral deal was scratched, congressional Republicans — who hold key votes if impeachment proceeds — warned Mulvaney against going through with it.

For public consumption, however, Trump offered the usual spray of partisan gunfire from the rear of his figurative getaway car.

"Doral would have been great, but the Democrats went crazy," he complained.

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