The Emoluments Clause is one of the Constitutional provisions that were to be invoked in only the most outrageous examples of gifts being provided by foreign leaders directly to the President of the United States of great monetary value – sufficient to suspect that they may be given to unduly influence White House decisions and policies.
The Emoluments Clause has never been invoked against any President – even in the days when foreign heads-of-state would present Presidents with expensive gifts – and vice versa. In more recent years, gifts from heads-of-state have been considered the property of the people – not the President.
The Emoluments Clause was never intended to cover non-monetary benefits or even incidental benefits from business associated with the President. Even as President, George Washington operated a working farm and some of his crops were purchased by foreign governments. Many political leaders have maintained ownership in law firms with foreign clients even as they served in public office. Under the concept of a part-time citizen legislature – as envisioned by the Founders – many of our public officials came from and returned to their primary businesses – and some of those profited from foreign patronage.
Most Democrats in Congress understand that even as they stretch the Emoluments Clause to the breaking point in an attempt to cover President Trump. While that may be a beneficial political narrative, it would be surprising if Democrats included an Emoluments Clause violation in the upcoming Article of Impeachment.
But … if you are going to make some exaggerated case to apply the Emoluments Clause to Trump, it is not a much further reach to apply it to former Vice President Biden. The nexus is very simple.
It is well understood that Joe Biden greased the skids for a number of lucrative financial deals with foreign entities. The Biden family – in the person of his son, Hunter – has made millions of dollars through his connection to his father – and in some cases through the direct intercession of this father. You will recall how daddy Biden took Hunter to China aboard Air Force Two and introduced him to top officials and business leaders. As a result, Hunter’s company – in which former Secretary of State John Kerry’s son is also a partner — received a $1.5 billion business deal.
We know that Hunter received a board seat on Burisma at a time when the company and the oligarch who headed it was involved in the deep corruption that characterized Ukraine before the election of reform President Volodymyr Zelensky. It was also a time when Vice President Biden was assigned responsibility for Ukraine by President Obama. The job netted Hunter hundreds of thousands of dollars even though he had no experience in Ukraine or with energy companies.
That is a lot of emolument flowing to Biden’s son. But how – theoretically – does that establish an emolument for Biden senior. That is easy. Just check out the Federal Election Commission campaign contribution and you will find contributions related directly and indirectly to Hunter Biden. Couldn’t this be viewed as foreign money being laundered to Biden?
I know it is a stretch, but not much more than the argument that foreign visitors staying at the Trump Hotel in Washington is an emolument.
As a footnote, it is interesting that the #NeverTrump folks believe every foreigner who stays at Trump’s Hotel provides an emolument – and now that it is rumored that the Trump Organization may sell the hotel, they say THAT is an emolument. In fact, none of it is an emolument as considered by the Founders when they drafted that clause in the Constitution.
So. There ‘tis.