Election fraud conspiracy theorist and President-elect Donald Trump would really rather not deal with this whole “Constitution” thing. Trump today tweeted his belief that people that burn the American flag should face serious consequences.
Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2016
Flag burning was ruled speech protected under the First Amendment in a 1989 case decided by the United States Supreme Court.
But that’s not the first, or even the most serious time that Trump has advocated for violating the Constitution. Last Tuesday, he espoused the belief that it’s impossible for the President to have conflicts of interest.
“As far as the, you know, potential conflict of interests, though, I mean I know that from the standpoint, the law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest,” he told the New York Times. “ That’s been reported very widely.”
While he’s correct in a certain sense — the Founding Fathers sought to protect their income as slaveholders that operated plantations by absolving the President from traditional legal restrictions about conflicts of interest — the scope and ways in which his businesses operate will almost certainly put him in violation of the emoluments clause.
The emoluments clause is a little-invoked piece of the Constitution that basically says that the President can’t accept gifts from foreign powers without the consent of Congress. Obviously, that doesn’t mean that the President can’t accept a ceremonial sword, say. It does mean that the President can’t accept large sums of cash from foreign governments. (Before you say it: Should Clinton have won, she surely would have either disallowed her charitable foundation from accepting foreign donations, or disconnected her family from it entirely.)
No big deal, right?
Wrong. Trump’s wide variety of business interests at high levels place him in contact with members of the ruling party of a wide variety of countries around the world. The New York Times has an excellent list of these potential conflicts. But you don’t even have to leave Washington D.C. to find a potential immediate violation of the emoluments clause.
His Washington D.C. hotel, the much-publicised site of his fake-out presser in which he temporarily disavowed his Birther stance, has been a hotbed for foreign diplomats seeking to curry favour with the President. Should he encourage the diplomats to stay there at a rate different than the market rate, he would be accepting cash from a foreign power and would therefore be in violation of the emoluments clause. He told the Timesthat his hotel has become a hot property since he’s been elected. Should its rates rise, that would be a potential violation.
Of course, by taking office he will violate his lease. That’s saying nothing of the potential violation arising from the lease that the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd holds in Trump Tower, which could result in a violation if it is renewed. (Trump owes the bank, which is operated by the Chinese government, around $650 million.)
Of course, Trump could instantly solve these issues by liquidating his assets and placing them in a blind trust. But he won’t; he’ll have his children run his businesses and say it’s a blind trust. It’s not, but he doesn’t care.
So there’s pretty much a 100% chance that Trump will violate the Constitution the second he finishes his oath of office. That would make him, technically, impeachable. We’ll see how likely that is with a Republican supermajority.