The Department of Justice has implemented an obscure interpretation of a law intended to prevent foreign interests from corrupting members of the federal government, The Guardian reports. According to national security experts, The DOJ has allowed Saudi Arabia, China, and other nations to gain favor with president Trump through deals with his businesses, including hotels, golf courses, trademarks, and condos.
the "foreign emoluments clause" was meant to prevent presidents and other high-ranking government officials from receiving benefits and offerings from foreign governments without Congressional consent. But Washington University Law professor Kathleen Clark, in a forthcoming Indiana Law Journal article, shows that the justice department have changed their approach recently.
According to Clark, the new interpretation in justice filings responds to recent legal actions waged by members of Congress and attorney generals. In her article, Clark notes that over 50 legal opinions from the past 150 years have interpreted the clause as barring any gifts except ones explicitly approved by Congress.
But department filings since June of 2017 show a new interpretation—one that “…would permit the president—and all federal officials—to accept unlimited amounts of money from foreign governments, as long as the money comes through commercial transactions with an entity owned by the federal official."
The official stance taken by the justice department now closely resembles arguments made in January 2017 by Trump Organization lawyer Sheri Dillon and her associates. On January 11, 2017, days before Trump's inauguration, Dillon said that Trump isn't taking payments in his "official capacity" as president, only receiving income from his private business. “Paying for a hotel room is not a gift or a present, and it has nothing to do with an office,” she said.
But this goes against the belief of many legal experts.
“For over a hundred years, the justice department has strictly interpreted the constitution’s anti-corruption emoluments clause to prohibit federal officials from accepting anything of value from foreign governments, absent congressional consent,” Clark told the Guardian.