Donald Trump’s emolument issue

Good morning. On behalf of The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board, welcome to The Take, your opinion-politics newsletter. Please sign up for it here.

On the take?

It seems so long ago, an innocent time, really. Barack Obama, having taken office in 2009, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Few will recall it, but there was a question about whether by accepting the prize, Obama would be violating the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

That’s the obscure clause that basically says presidents are not supposed to get greased by foreign governments.

“No Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under (the United States), shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

The U.S. Justice Department took the Nobel Prize question seriously enough that it opined: “Based on the consistent historical practice of the political branches for more than a century with respect to receipt of the Peace Prize by high federal officials, as well as our Office’s precedents interpreting the Emoluments Clause in other contexts, we conclude that the President in accepting the Prize would not be accepting anything from a ‘foreign State’ within the Clause’s meaning.”

Seems reasonable.

Now that Donald Trump is about to become president, however, the Emolument Clause is suddenly relevant. His far-flung business interests include a loan from the Bank of China, which is partially owned by the Chinese government, and so much more, as The New York Times and others have written.

Without a doubt, Trump’s critics will sue to enforce the clause. If they draw a sympathetic judge, Trump could face years of litigation. It’d be so much easier if he were to put his holdings into a blind trust.

Take a number: 59 percent

Donald Trump has a habit of defying polls, as Hillary Clinton learned two weeks ago. But one released Tuesday by CNN/ORC says that 59 percent of respondents believe he isn’t doing enough to avoid conflicts by planning to turn over management of his business empire to his children; 39 percent are satisfied.

We wrote about the potential conflicts, as did The Wall Street Journal editorial board, which joined the call for Trump to divest his holdings and place the assets in a truly blind trust. Otherwise, the WSJ warned, his presidency will be mired in controversy.

For people trying to score at home, The Washington Post has created a handy list of where Trump Inc.’s businesses might conflict with the business of government.

“The law’s totally on my side, the president can’t have a conflict of interest,” he told The New York Times on Tuesday. – Foon Rhee, @foonrhee

Our take

Editorial: To understand just how deep the rabbit hole of fake news goes, consider the story of Comet Ping Pong, a pizzeria in Washington, D.C., that’s rumored to be the headquarters of child molestation ring with connections to Hillary Clinton and her campaign chief, John Podesta.

Editorial: California farmers grow all the glamor crops: fine wine grapes, tomatoes, almonds, pistachios, strawberries and so many more. Steve Bontadelli finds glory in the humble Brussels sprout, as detailed in a recent edition of the California Farm Bureau’s publication, Ag Alert. For that, we give thanks.

Marcos Breton: A Donald Trump supporter sits down at your Thanksgiving table. Now what?

Cherri Senders: Why Black Thursday is anti-worker.

Ken Beer: Sports fishermen have rights, too.

Their take

Orange County Register: A federal appeals court, acting in a taxi case, sided with entrepreneurs looking to make a living and consumers, who benefit from the increased competition in the form of lower prices and better service. Now, if only regulatory and protectionist barriers could be brought down in equal measure and fervor in other industries.

L.A. Times: The Trans-Pacific Partnership isn’t dead outside the U.S.

Raleigh News & Observer: Donald Trump is figuring out that at the end of the day, most Americans want a leader who is calm, measured in thought and action, and not on either end of the political extremes.

David Remnick, The New Yorker: The fantasy of the normalization of Donald Trump – the idea that a demagogic candidate would somehow be transformed into a statesman of poise and deliberation after his Election Day victory – should now be a distant memory, an illusion shattered.

Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review: Sen. Jeff Sessions has served our nation well in a wide variety of ways during his Senate tenure. It is on the imperative of enforcing our immigration laws, though, that he most stands out as a notably effective voice, if too often a lonely one.

Syndicates’ take

Kathleen Parker: The meaning of Mitt Romney.

Ruben Navarrette: “Hamilton” cast staged rude encounter.

Dana Milbank: Trump must disown white nationalists.


“The boorishness of the American population knows no bounds.” Pam Niebauer, Diamond Springs

President-elect Trump’s Twitter feed

“Prior to the election it was well known that I have interests in properties all over the world. Only the crooked media makes this a big deal!” Donald J. Trump ‏@realDonaldTrump