Robert Reich: Trump is Being Sued. Why Are Taxpayers Funding His Defense?

President Donald Trump’s business (now run by his two adult sons) has 157 trademark applications pending in 36 countries, according to The New York Times.

Registered trademarks are huge financial assets for a business like Trump’s, which is now focused on marketing his name rather than building or making anything.

And all these countries depend on decisions Trump will have a hand in making — over trade, foreign policy, international banking, foreign aid and the use of military force.

It’s the art of the deal.

When the Chinese granted Trump preliminary approval of 38 trademarks of his name soon after he was sworn into office — and right after Trump backed off of his brief flirtation with a “two China” policy — China gave Trump the equivalent of a huge amount of money.

“It was a gift,” said Peter J. Riebling, a trademark lawyer in Washington. “Getting the exclusive right to use that brand in China against everyone else in the world? It’s like waving a magic wand.”

Meanwhile, Ivanka Trump has 37 trademark applications pending in 10 countries, covering the sale of leather goods in China, jewelry in the Philippines and beauty products in Indonesia.

Doesn’t all this violate the Constitution? After all, Article I, Section 9 (the so-called “emoluments clause”) prohibits government officials from accepting any economic benefit from a foreign power — presumably including trademark approvals.

We may soon find out. A lawsuit filed in January in the Southern District of New York by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and several prominent law professors seeks a judgment that Trump has violated the emoluments clause.

Who’s representing Trump in that lawsuit? The United States Department of Justice.

You heard me right. In a legal brief expected to be filed this month, DOJ lawyers will argue that the framers of the Constitution meant only to rule out gifts and compensation for services rather than for any favorable policies; that, in any event, the court has no authority to intervene because the power to waive the clause lies with Congress; and plaintiffs have no standing to sue, anyway.

Hold on here. Why is U.S. Justice Department representing Trump’s personal financial interests and not the broader interests of the citizens of the United States? Don’t the rest of us have a right to be represented?

I mean, our taxes pay for the Department of Justice. (It’s far from clear that Trump has even paid taxes, at least since 2005.)

Having the U.S. Department of Justice representing Trump’s financial interests around the world is just another way Trump is fleecing America and making money off of his presidency.

We the people need to be represented against Trump’s far-flung businesses. Trump can afford his own lawyer.

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