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Tue Nov 22, 2016, 09:25 PM

Donald Trumps Business Dealings Test a Constitutional Limit - NYT


WASHINGTON — Not long after he took office, President Obama sought advice from the Justice Department about a potential conflict of interest involving a foreign government. He wanted to know whether he could accept the Nobel Peace Prize.


It took David J. Barron, a Justice Department official who is now a federal appeals court judge in Boston, 13 single-spaced pages to answer Mr. Obama’s question.

Two things were clear, he wrote. The Emoluments Clause “surely” applied to the president, and the prize, which included a check for about $1.4 million, was the sort of thing that would be barred if it came from a foreign state. In the end, however, Mr. Barron concluded that Mr. Obama could accept the prize because the committee that chose him was independent of the Norwegian government and the prize itself was privately financed.

But he said that the answer would be different if a foreign government sought to make a payment to a sitting president. In a footnote, Mr. Barron added, “Corporations owned or controlled by a foreign government are presumptively foreign states under the Emoluments Clause.”

Mr. Trump’s companies do business with entities controlled by foreign governments and people with ties to them. The ventures include multimillion-dollar real estate arrangements — with Mr. Trump’s companies either as a full owner or a “branding” partner — in Ireland and Uruguay. The Bank of China is a tenant in Trump Tower and a lender for another building in Midtown Manhattan where Mr. Trump has a significant partnership interest.

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