Ivanka Trump at White House Meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel
President Donald J. Trump's daughter Ivanka has been in the news lately for a whole host of reasons. But unlike the attention usually showered on presidential children, attention on her has been more on the inquisitive side, specifically, why she is always present in meetings with world leaders at the White House. There is a lot of curiosity as to what her role is at her dad's White House. Before her dad became President, she was his trusted business partner. The logical question being raised now with her presence at the White House is whether she is using the hallowed office to conduct her father's business. This raises conflict of interest questions and is also possibly a violation of the Emoluments Clause(Foreign Leaders). Yours Truly recently asked this question in a Tweet to White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus(see Tweet below)
Some sections of the media have confronted the Trump White House with the Ivanka question. The White House has always dismissed such questions saying the President's critics are just jealous because he is very close with his adult children and that it's very normal for them to desire spending time with him at the White House. In essence the response from the Trump White House, admittedly a very clever one, has been that critics are "mean" or "cruel" to even ask why Ivanka is at such high level meetings with her dad. In other words, what kind of a person gets mad that someone is spending a lot of time with their dad?
The "cruel" and "mean" defense however is getting old and the White House needs to explain what Ivanka's role is at the White House. Specifically, the White House needs to assure people that she is not there as her dad's business partner or even using the hallowed office to advance her personal business interests. Her continued mingling with foreign leaders raises the prospect of Emoluments Clause violations. The sooner this question is addressed the better because like the Tax Return question, it will not go away. It will only get louder.
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Immediately after Donald Trump was elected President in November 2016, Republicans were quite content to stonewall any efforts at releasing the tax returns he promised to release while he was a presidential candidate. They even came up with a uniform response to all tax return questions that went like this--voters were presented with the tax return question and still elected Trump. This became the standard retort for Trump's Senior Adviser Kellyanne Conway on her numerous TV appearances. As far as the Trump Administration and the GOP were concerned, tax returns was a settled political issue.
The same was true with Congress where the GOP controls both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Any effort to obtain Trump's tax returns to make sure he had no conflicts of interest was stonewalled. Rep. Jason Chaffetz(R-UT) Chairman of the House Oversight Committee blocked numerous attempts by Democrats to subpoena Trump's tax returns. His counterpart Rep. Kevin Brady, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which also has powers to subpoena the said tax returns repeatedly blocked efforts to get the returns. The message from the GOP Congress was very clear--we will not subpoena Trump's taxes.
If the GOP effort at stonewalling was meant to silence the people demanding the president's tax returns, it has failed dismally. Calls for the President's tax returns have only gotten louder. Vulnerable Republican Congressmen and Senators have been pelted with the tax return question at their local town halls and the pressure is beginning to show. Slowly but surely, Republicans are acknowledging that hiding the president's tax returns is not smart politics and are beginning to call on president to release the returns to not only resolve this lingering question but also to ease the political pressure on them.
Among the Republicans who have gone on record saying the President should release his tax returns are Rep. Mark Sanford(R-SC), Rep. Walter Jones(R-NC), Rep Matt Gaetz(R-FL), Sen. Susan Collins(R-ME), Sen. Joni Ernst(R-IA). Expect this list to grow longer as election year 2018 approaches and demands grow louder in the local Town halls.
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The recent strike down of President Trump's travel bans gives us a window as to what to expect with other federal court cases especially Emoluments Clause and COIs. There's a theme developing in the federal courts that works against his administration in that his previous pronouncements are being used against him. In the Travel ban case for example, because the President had gone on record numerous times touting a ban on people from majority Muslim countries, that was enough to establish religious animus. This line of judicial thought could also hurt the president in his pending Emolument Clause cases.
In terms of Emoluments Clause he said time and again during the campaign that he would fully divest from his vast businesses if he won the Presidency. These assurances while not legally enforceable demonstrate that when he was running for office, he was fully aware how important these documents were to the voting public, especially as they relate to business conflicts of interest issues. Therefore when a litigant asks a federal judge for a copy of the President's tax returns to prove their conflict of interest or Emoluments Clause case, it will be impossible for the president to offer a credible opposing argument. How do you argue in court against releasing your tax returns when you are on the record promising to do exactly that?
Therefore in much the same way the president's previous pronouncements have cost him regarding the Travel Ban, they are set to do the same with Emoluments Clause cases. However unlike the Travel Ban losses which simply call for a re-drafting, Emoluments Clause losses may become quite problematic, including but not limited to opening the First Family to criminal corruption prosecution. Yours Truly is on record predicting on Twitter as far back as December 2016 that Emoluments Clause is the First Family's Worst Nightmare.
When Emoluments Clause finally brings down the Trump administration, expect some Chest-Thumping I-Told-You-Sos from Yours Truly.
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