According to the Constitution, the President is not allowed to accept "emoluments" from foreign countries. An emolument is defined as "profit, salary, or fees from office or employment; compensation for services".

Trump has argued that receiving reasonable payment for a service would be allowed, despite the fact that they clearly fit the definition of an emolument. But even if we accept Trumps's assertion, his international businesses create an opportunity for a foreign power to grossly overpay for a service in an attempt to hide a gift. Which is probably why emoluments are forbidden.

Emoluments Clause of the US Constitution

Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 states:

"... no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, 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."

Read more in the Heritage Guide.

Foreign Businesses

According to Time, Trump owns 500 companies in over two dozen countries, including China, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, etc.

CREW, a group of Constitutional experts and attorneys, filed suit against Trump to stop him from violating the Emoluments clause of Constitution. They allege that hs is illegally receiving payments from foreign governments. [1/32/17 Press Release]

February 2017 - Trump met with President Xi Jinping of China and told him that the US would honor China's "One China Policy" towards Taiwan. [NYTimes] Days later China announced that it was granting a trademark that Trump had been trying to get for ten years. [NYTimes]

March 2017 - ABC news reported that, after Trump was elected, China suddenly granted 38 trademarks to Trump. Ben Cardin (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee , wrote "This is an astonishing development. For a decade prior to his election as president, Donald Trump sought, with no success, to have lucrative and valuable trademarks granted in the world’s biggest market,”. The trademarks cover golf clubs, spas, hotels, bar, escort services and other businesses. Shortly after this, Trump made policy decisions favorable to China. [Guardian]

May 2018 - China grants Ivanka Trump valuable trademarks for her books, housewares, etc. [NYTimes] Ivanka Trump works in the White House as an adviser to her father. In the same month, Trump said that he would help save Chinese electronics company ZTE from collapse. ZTE had broken American sanctions against countries including Iran and North Korea. [NYTimes]

Trump could address many people's concerns by releasing his tax returns, which is routinely done by candidates for President. But Trump refuses to do so. Why? It may require an investigation, or even an impeachment trial, to force Trump to release these documents.

Trump's DC Hotel

Trump owns a grand hotel in Washington DC that is leased from the US Government. This, by the way, is in violation of a clause in the lease that says an elected official cannot lease the property. In November 2016, after the election, Trump gave a tour of the hotel to 100 foreign dignitaries. Rooms at the hotel include a $20,000 per night suite. The message was abviously clear to the attendees, many of whom said that this Trump hotel was the place to stay if you wanted to make a friendly gesture towards the new President. [Washington Post]

champagne trolly in hotel fancy suite



  1. "What is the ‘Emoluments Clause’? Does it apply to President Trump?", Washington Post, Jan 23, 2017
  2. "Trump runs roughshod over the Constitution’s emoluments clause", Washington Post, March 9, 2017