@realdonaldtrump Donald Trump and the Emoluments Clause, explained

Barring a major and unexpected change of course, Donald Trump will run the risk of violating the US Constitution on January 20, 2017 — the very first day he is sworn into the US presidency.

The breach stems from the massive conflicts of interest between his presidency and his business empire. Trump has a huge stake in a real estate holding underwritten with a loan from the Chinese government. He has tens of millions of dollars riding on building projects in Saudi Arabia. Foreign diplomats have already admitted to spending money at his hotels to curry favor with the president.

Trump has said that the president is exempted from the federal conflicts of interest regulations that usually bind elected officials — and he’s right about that.

But that answer misses another big barrier presented by Trump’s clinging to a sprawling business empire: that it will directly violate the Constitution.

The Constitution says that no elected official can take an “emolument” of “any kind whatever” from a king, prince, or foreign state. The restriction, known as “the Emoluments Clause,” is intended to prevent political officials from receiving gifts from foreign governments.

Trump is putting himself on a course to do exactly that. The president-elect rode to office promising to “drain the swamp” and tamp down on corruption in Washington, DC. At least in the eyes of legal scholars, he instead looks poised to begin his presidency by breaking the highest law of the land for private gain.

And unless the Republican Party wants to do something about it, there’s basically nothing standing in his way.

Why scholars think Donald Trump is on course to break the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause

Now, a word of caution: There is not unanimity among scholars on the question of whether Donald Trump would be violating the Constitution by allowing foreign governments (and companies backed by foreign governments) from doing business with his private company.

But there does seem to be a fairly broad consensus forming. The issue comes down to the meaning of the “emolument” clause of the Constitution in Article I, Section 9. An “emolument” refers to compensation for a service or labor, according to the New York Times, which raises the question of whether foreign payments to Trump-owned businesses constitute forbidden emoluments.

On its own, scholars say, simply having his businesses continue to interact abroad may not necessarily mean Trump is running afoul of the Constitution. One issue is that no American president has ever had anything close to resembling Trump’s international business ties. Nor is there any real case law or precedent for knowing how the courts would interpret the clause, since previous presidents have voluntarily chosen to either invest their assets in a blind trust or else in diversified index funds so the issue wouldn’t arise.

“Trump’s just dropped out of the sky here, and we don’t know what happens when someone does that,” says Bob Biersack, a senior fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics.

But Richard Painter, a constitutional lawyer and George W. Bush’s former ethics lawyer, told ThinkProgress that the instant Trump’s business sells anything above “fair market value” to a foreign government that it’s clearly then considered a gift — and therefore a violation of the emoluments clause. (This was the same answer given to the Times by Norman Eisen, who was the chief White House ethics lawyer for Obama from 2009 to 2013. It’s also one three separate experts agreed with in interviews with me on Tuesday.)

There’s almost no way to imagine that this won’t happen under the current arrangement. Trump’s wide-ranging business will involve thousands of interactions across multiple countries, and in countries whose foreign governments’ will have clear incentives to curry favor with the president. We’d have to believe that not a single one of them will ever do something that disproportionately helps Trump’s private business — an idea which doesn’t pass the laugh test.

“It’s clearly prohibited,” says Steven Schooner, a George Washington University law professor.

“The president cannot get a gift from a foreign government,” says Jordan Libowitz, of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “And it looks like he’s going to do exactly that.”

Painter also told ThinkProgress that the president-elect’s name may alone jack up the “fair market value” of a property. Therefore, Trump products may already be considered a violation of the emoluments clause even if there’s no direct proof that the foreign governments paid more than some abstract “fair market rate:”

Painter said, “I don’t think you can take into account the value of the name Trump in calculating fair market value.” The diplomats are not staying in one of Trump’s expensive luxury hotels because Trump is charging their nations a reasonable market rate for a night’s stay. They are staying in the hotel because of the added value that comes from doing business with the President of the United States.

One dissenter from this consensus has been Seth Barrett Tillman, a lecturer at the Maynooth University Department of Law in Ireland. Tillman has argued that Trump isn’t on the hook here because the Constitution doesn’t specify that the president is subject to the Emoluments Clause — an argument that both Fordham Law Professor Zephyr Teachout and Harvard’s Laurence Tribe have dismissed.

Others have argued that the constitutional Emoluments Clause is clearly intended to be about gifts, and that merely having foreign investments does not appear to have been something the founders were particularly concerned with.

“This constitutional provision prevents the president (and any other federal officer) from accepting gifts or compensation from foreign states,” David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey, two former George H.W. Bush administration officials, wrote today in the Washington Post. “It does not limit Trump’s ability to benefit from dealings with non-state foreign entities.”

Trump has an easy way out if he wants it — but he doesn’t seem to

There is a solution to this mess, one Trump could easily find by looking at the actions of his predecessors.

In 2008, Barack Obama decided to liquidate his assets and convert them into treasury bonds and index funds. Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush all placed their assets in a blind trust. Even Jimmy Carter insisted on turning his Georgia peanut farm over to a trustee.

Instead, Trump’s campaign has said that he’s going to turn his company over to a “blind trust” managed by his kids.

The problem is that this setup isn’t even in the same universe as a blind trust. The Trump children will certainly be in touch with him, if not serving informally or even formally in his administration. But even if we grant him that having his kids run the enterprise is a meaningful act of separation, there’ll be nothing “blind” about it — Trump’s name is emblazoned all over his buildings and hotels, and so it will be visible to everyone whether a foreign government can help his private business.

rest at http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/23/13715150/donald-trump-emoluments-clause-constitution

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@realdonaldtrump Trump Lies That Millions Voted Illegally, And Mainstream Outlets Uncritically Echo Him

Media outlets failed to hold President-elect Donald Trump accountable for his false claim that “millions of people” illegally voted in the 2016 presidential election by failing to state in their headlines and tweets — which are what most news consumers see — that the allegation was a lie. The claim, which Trump used to dismiss his loss in the popular vote and to attack a recount effort in Wisconsin, was originally pushed by far-right “conspiracy-theory hawking” websites. Even though fact-checking organizations debunked the idea, numerous mainstream media outlets writing about the issue on social media and in headlines either reported Trump’s lie without noting that it was false or hedged by writing only that it lacked evidence.

Trump Baselessly Claims Millions Voted Illegally In Election

Trump: "Millions Of People" Voted Illegally For Clinton. President-elect Donald Trump responded to an election recount in Wisconsin initiated by the Green Party by falsely claiming, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.’’ The Los Angeles Times reported that the claim was “immediately denounced” by “election experts.” From the November 27 article:

Donald Trump falsely claimed Sunday that he won the popular vote, alleging in a tweet — without evidence — that "millions" of people had illegally voted for his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

"In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally," Trump wrote, hours after he tweeted his opposition to a recount in Midwestern states initiated by the Green Party.

Election experts, who say election fraud is rare, immediately denounced Trump’s claim.

"There’s been no evidence produced of millions – or thousands – or even hundreds – of noncitizens voting for president in 2016," tweeted Rick Hasen, a professor of law and politics who writes for the Election Law Blog. [Los Angeles Times, 11/27/16]

Trump’s Claim Came From “Conspiracy-Theory Hawking” Right-Wing Media And Has Been Debunked

Wash. Post’s “The Fix”: Trump’s False Claim Came From A Tweet Picked Up By Infowars And The Drudge Report. The Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted that Trump’s claim came from “a random tweet” by a former Texas state official named Gregg Phillips claiming “3 million votes … were cast by noncitizens,” which was “quickly picked up by the conspiracy-theory hawking site InfoWars” and “was linked out at the top of the Drudge Report on Nov. 14.” Bump pointed out that “the rumor-debunking site Snopes looked at Phillips’s claim and found no evidence for it.” From the November 27 article:

In fact, this claim that millions of illegal immigrants voted is itself the result of a random tweet.

On Nov. 13, Gregg Phillips, a former Texas Health and Human Services Commission deputy commissioner, tweeted about there being 3 million votes that were cast by noncitizens.

Phillips claims in another tweet that his organization (it’s not clear which organization, but it may be True the Vote) has a database of 180 million voter registrations and he confirms that 3 million of the people in that database who voted are noncitizens. He has been asked to provide evidence for that claim repeatedly, without having done so.

[…]

Regardless, the story was quickly picked up by the conspiracy-theory hawking site InfoWars, a story that was linked out at the top of the Drudge Report on Nov. 14.

[…]

The rumor-debunking site Snopes looked at Phillips’s claim and found no evidence for it. (It also noted that Phillips has a history of implying that Obamacare will lead to the registration of millions of immigrants here illegally.) Phillips replied on Twitter, “One might imagine someone would have called me.” That’s easier said than done; when I was looking at this earlier this month I couldn’t find a way to contact Phillips. An email to True the Vote, a conservative group focused on the issue of voter fraud (for which Phillips claims to be a board member), did not receive a reply. [The Washington Post, 11/27/16]

PolitiFact: “‘Obscenely Ludicrous’” Claim That 3 Million Voted Illegally Is “Undermined By Publicly Available Information.” PolitiFact examined Phillips’ claim and rated it “false,” finding that “Phillips will not provide any evidence to support his claim, which happens to be undermined by publicly available information.” The PolitiFact article also quoted an election law expert who called the claim “fake news” and “obscenely ludicrous.” From the November 14 article:

While we have no idea how Phillips arrived at his claim that 3-million noncitizens voted, people who have made similar claims in the past have cited a 2014 report that claims 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent of non-citizens voted in 2010 midterm congressional elections.

That report was based on data from a Harvard survey of people. But the data was flawed, which created flaws in the subsequent report.

[…]

Richard Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, called Phillips’ claim "fake news."

"There is no credible evidence I have seen to show large numbers of noncitizens voting in U.S. elections anywhere," Hasen said. "The idea that 3 million noncitizens could have illegally voted in our elections without being detected is obscenely ludicrous."

[…]

Reports claim 3 million "illegal aliens" cast votes in this year’s election.

The articles point back to tweets from Gregg Phillips, who has worked for the Republican Party and has a voter fraud reporting app. But Phillips will not provide any evidence to support his claim, which happens to be undermined by publicly available information. [PolitiFact,
11/14/16]

rest at http://mediamatters.org/research/2016/11/28/trump-lies-millions-voted-illegally-and-mainstream-outlets-uncritically-echo-him/214628

Right-Wing and Fake News Writers Are Now Going After Elon Musk

Fake news galvanized US president-elect Donald Trump’s supporters, and sullied his enemies. Now it may be Elon Musk’s turn. Quartz adds: The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX has his fair share of detractors, but a new era in a public relations battle to discredit him appears to be taking shape. Bloomberg reports that hard-right groups are lining up to back misleading websites and fake journalists who attack Musk’s business empire. Many of the attacks on Musk begin with something factual: His businesses were built, legally, with the help of billions in government contracts and incentives for renewable energy and space transport. But they go on to accuse Musk of fraud and wasting taxpayer dollars; some compare him to a convicted felon. At least three conservative sites have run negative pieces about Musk — by a nonexistent writer named "Shepard Stewart" — that include "Elon Musk Continues to Blow Up Taxpayer Money With Falcon 9" and "Elon Musk: Faux Free Marketeer and National Disgrace." Two later retracted the stories. "There’s a very obvious precedent" for this, says Sam Jaffe, managing director of Cairn Energy Research Advisors. "That’s Hillary Clinton." Musk tweeted this week, "Can anyone uncover who is really writing these fake pieces?"

rest at https://yro.slashdot.org/story/16/11/25/036202/right-wing-and-fake-news-writers-are-now-going-after-elon-musk

Some Fake News Publishers Just Happen to Be Donald Trump’s @realDonaldTrump Cronies

The extraordinary phenomenon of fake news spread by Facebook and other social media during the 2016 presidential election has been largely portrayed as a lucky break for Donald Trump.

By that reckoning, entrepreneurial Macedonian teenagers, opportunists in Tbilisi and California millennials have exploited social media algorithms in order to make money — only incidentally leading to the viral proliferation of mostly anti-Clinton and anti-Obama hoaxes and conspiracy theories that thrilled many Trump supporters. The Washington Post published a shoddy report on Thursday alleging that Russian state-sponsored propagandists were seeking to promote Trump through fabricated stories, independent of the candidate himself.

But a closer look reveals that some of the biggest fake news providers were run by experienced political operators well within the orbit of Donald Trump’s political advisers and consultants.

Laura Ingraham, a close Trump ally currently under consideration to be Trump’s White House press secretary, owns an online publisher called Ingraham Media Group that runs a number of sites, including LifeZette, a news site that frequently posts articles of dubious veracity. One video produced by LifeZette this summer, ominously titled “Clinton Body Count,” promoted a conspiracy theory that the Clinton family had some role in the plane crash death of John F. Kennedy, Jr., as well as the deaths of various friends and Democrats.

The video, published on Facebook from LifeZette’s verified news account, garnered over 400,000 shares and 14 million views.

Another LifeZette video, picking up false claims from other sites, claimed that voting machines “might be compromised” because a voting machine company called Smartmatic, allegedly providing voting machines “in sixteen states,” was purchased by the liberal billionaire George Soros. Soros never purchased the company, and Smartmatic did not provide voting machines used in the general election.

One LifeZette article misleadingly claimed that the United Nations backed a “secret” Obama administration takeover of local police departments. The article referenced Justice Department orders that a select few police departments address patterns of misconduct, a practice that, in reality, long predates the Obama presidency, is hardly secret, and had no relation to the United Nations.

Another LifeZette article, which went viral in the week prior to the election, falsely claimed that Wikileaks had revealed that a senior Hillary Clinton campaign official had engaged in occult rituals. Ingraham’s site regularly receives links from the Drudge Report and other powerful drivers of Internet traffic.

But LifeZette, for all its influence, pales in comparison to the sites run by Floyd Brown, a Republican consultant close to Trump’s inner circle of advisers. Brown gained notoriety nearly three decades ago for his role in helping to produce the “Willie Horton” campaign advertisement, a spot criticized for its use of racial messaging to derail Michael Dukakis’s presidential bid. Brown is also the political mentor of David Bossie, an operative who went to work for Trump’s presidential campaign this year after founding the Citizens United group. In an interview this year, Brown called Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway a “longtime friend.”

Brown now produces a flow of reliably pro-Trump Internet content through a company he owns called Liftable Media Inc., which operates a number of high-impact, tabloid-style news outlets that exploded in size over the course of the election. One of Brown’s sites, Western Journalism, is the 81st largest site in the U.S. with 13 million monthly unique page views, according to rankings maintained by the site Alexa. Another, called Conservative Tribune, is the 50th largest site with over 19 million monthly unique visitors.

Brown’s sites churn out bombastic headlines with little regard to the truth. One viral piece shared by Brown’s news outlets claimed that President Obama had redesigned the White House logo to change the American flag to a white flag, “a common symbol for surrender, which has many people wondering if Obama was trying to secretly signal to America’s enemies that he was surrendering.” The Facebook post touted the article with the line, “We all know Obama hates the United States, but what he just did to the White House logo is beyond the pale.”

As the fact-checking website Snopes was quick to note, it was no signal of surrender and the bleached white version of the White House logo, complete with a white flag, was not even an Obama creation. The white logo dates back to as early as 2003, under the Bush administration, which used it for official documents.

The Conservative Tribune and Western Journalism provide a steady stream of similarly deceptive, eye-catching headlines.

rest at https://theintercept.com/2016/11/26/laura-ingraham-lifezette/

Trump’s presidential hires and advisors own a hell of a lot of fake news sites

clintonbodycount-293x300

Floyd Brown invented the Reagan-era Willie Horton lie, helped create the Citizens United group, and now owns Liftable Media, including sites like Conservative Tribune (50th most-trafficked site in the USA) and Western Journalism (81st), whence came fake news stories like the lie that Obama had altered the White House logo to include a white flag of surrender (the logo change came from GWB’s White House); the lie that Muslims had been "ordered" to vote for Hillary; the lie that Obama had encouraged millennial non-citizen Latin@s to vote without fear of reprisals; the lie that Clinton had a Vegas "drug holiday" before the debate; the lie that Obama’s birth certificate was not accepted by experts as genuine — Brown’s sites are all included in Facebook’s verified news sources.

Brown is a Trump advisor, also identified by Trump’s spokesperson as "a close friend."

Laura Ingraham is another Trump ally who’s been tapped to be his presidential secretary: she owns the Ingraham Media Group, including sites like Lifezette, which produced the hoax video "Clinton Body Count," which accused the Clintons of conspiring to crash John F Kennedy, Jr’s airplane and of complicity with many other deaths, a video that was shared 14,000,000 times after its successful viral debut on Facebook.

Lifezette also produced a viral hoax video about George Soros buying a voting machine company whose products were widely used in counting US ballots (Soros didn’t invest in the company, nor does that company supply US ballots). Other Lifezette hoaxes include a story asserting that a Wikileaks-published document linked Clinton to occult rituals.

Most significant of all, though, is Trump’s presidential chief strategist Steve Bannon, whose Breitbart News is a font of hoaxes and slanders:

Breitbart News blends commentary and journalism with inflammatory headlines, in many cases producing fake stories sourced from online hoaxes. The site once attempted to pass off a picture of people in Cleveland celebrating the Cavaliers as a massive Trump rally. The site furiously defended Trump’s false claim that “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey were “cheering” the 9/11 attacks, a claim that multiple fact-checking organizations have thoroughly debunked.

Some Fake News Publishers Just Happen to Be Donald Trump’s Cronies [Lee Fang/The Intercept]

rest at http://boingboing.net/2016/11/26/trumps-presidential-hires-an.html

In Scotland, Trump Built a Wall. Then He Sent Residents the Bill.

BALMEDIE, Scotland — President-elect Donald J. Trump has already built a wall — not on the border with Mexico, but on the border of his exclusive golf course in northeastern Scotland, blocking the sea view of local residents who refused to sell their homes.

And then he sent them the bill.

David and Moira Milne had already been threatened with legal action by Mr. Trump’s lawyers, who claimed a corner of their garage belonged to him, when they came home from work one day to find his staff building a fence around their garden. Two rows of grown trees went up next, blocking the view. Their water and electricity lines were temporarily cut. And then a bill for about $3,500 arrived in the mail, which, Mr. Milne said, went straight into the trash.

“You watch, Mexico won’t pay either,” said Mr. Milne, a health and safety consultant and part-time novelist, referring to Mr. Trump’s campaign promise to build a “beautiful, impenetrable wall” along the border and force the Mexicans to pay for it.

The Milnes now fly a Mexican flag from their hilltop house, a former coast guard station that overlooks the clubhouse of Trump International Golf Links, whenever Mr. Trump visits.

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So do Susan and John Munro, who also refused to sell and now face an almost 15-foot-high earthen wall built by Mr. Trump’s people on two sides of their property.

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Michael Forbes, a quarry worker whose home sits on the opposite side of the Trump property, added a second flag — “Hillary for President” — perhaps because Mr. Trump publicly accused him of living “like a pig” and called him a “disgrace” for not selling his “disgusting” and “slumlike” home.

As many Americans are trying to figure out what kind of president they have just elected, the people of Balmedie, a small village outside the once oil-rich city of Aberdeen, say they have a pretty good idea. In the 10 years since Mr. Trump first visited, vowing to build “the world’s greatest golf course” on an environmentally protected site featuring 4,000-year-old sand dunes, they have seen him lash out at anyone standing in his way. They say they watched him win public support for his golf course with grand promises, then watched him break them one by one.

A promised $1.25 billion investment has shrunk to what his opponents say is at most $50 million. Six thousand jobs have dwindled to 95. Two golf courses to one. An eight-story, 450-room luxury hotel never materialized, nor did 950 time-share apartments. Instead, an existing manor house was converted into a 16-room boutique hotel. Trump International Golf Links, which opened in 2012, lost $1.36 million last year, according to public accounts.

“If America wants to know what is coming, it should study what happened here. It’s predictive,” said Martin Ford, a local government representative. “I have just seen him do in America, on a grander scale, precisely what he did here. He suckered the people and he suckered the politicians until he got what he wanted, and then he went back on pretty much everything he promised.”

Alex Salmond, a former first minister of Scotland whose government granted Mr. Trump planning permission in 2008, overruling local officials, now concedes the point, saying, “Balmedie got 10 cents on the dollar.”

Sarah Malone, who came to Mr. Trump’s attention after winning a local beauty pageant and is now a vice president of Trump International, disputed some of the figures publicly discussed about the project, saying that Mr. Trump invested about $125 million and that the golf course now employed 150 people.

“While other golf and leisure projects were shelved due to lack of funds,” she said, “Mr. Trump continued to forge ahead with his plans and has put the region on the global tourism map, and this resort plays a vital role in the economic prosperity of northeast Scotland.”

Mr. Salmond said that Mr. Trump’s impact on business in Scotland might actually be a net negative because his xenophobic comments have appalled the Scottish establishment so much that the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, known simply as the R&A, is unlikely to award his other Scottish golf course, the world-renowned Trump Turnberry, another prestigious golf tournament like the Open anytime soon.

To see what Trump will do to America, look to his disastrous walled Scottish golf course

rest at http://boingboing.net/2016/11/26/to-see-what-trump-will-do-to-a.html

Trump International Golf Links was built on the site of a protected 4,000-year-old sand dune; he bullied anyone who wouldn’t sell their homes to him to build it and then sent the holdouts a bill for the 15-foot-high wall he built around their homes to block their view of the ocean; he promised a $1.25B investment and ended up investing no more than $50m; he promised 6,000 jobs and created 95; he promised two golf courses and only opened one; he promised to build a 450-room luxury hotel and 950 apartments and built neither — and now he does everything he can to prevent the creation of clean-energy wind-turbines off the coast.

Trump publicly ordered Nigel Farage, whose UK Independence Party has not won a single Scottish election, to bully the Scottish government into giving him more favourable treatment, a move greeted with hearty laughter by the ruling Scottish National Party, who cordially and publicly hate Trump (though their former leader, Alex Salmond, once gave Trump help, which he now publicly repudiates).

Trump’s Scottish neighbours fly enormous Hillary Clinton and Mexican flags when he visits his golf course.

The golf course has been open since 2012 and is still losing money — $1.36M last year.

Worse still, Trump’s odious remarks and obnoxious personality have prompted the Scottish golfing establishment to boycott his other course, costing the town hundreds of millions of pounds.

The wind turbines, whose foundations are expected to be laid next year, still seem to rankle Mr. Trump. In a meeting right after his election victory, Mr. Trump urged Nigel Farage, the leader of the populist U.K. Independence Party — which has failed to win a single seat in Scotland — to fight offshore wind farms in Scotland on his behalf.

“To actually believe that having a conversation with Nigel Farage and his henchmen about wind energy is going to change Scottish government policy is on the outer limits of possibility,” Mr. Salmond said.

As a presidential candidate who was caught on a hot microphone bragging about sexually assaulting women, Mr. Trump found little sympathy among Scotland’s political leaders, most of whom happen to be women.

Nicola Sturgeon, Mr. Salmond’s successor, has called Mr. Trump’s comments “deeply abhorrent” and stripped Mr. Trump of his membership in the Global Scot business network. Kezia Dugdale, who runs the Scottish Labour Party, commented after Mr. Trump’s election that a “misogynist” would move into the White House, while Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, described him as a “clay-brained guts, a knotty-pated fool.”