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Photo Credit: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Democrats introduce bill to ban foreign payments to U.S. officials after Trump probe

Democrats introduced new legislation on Tuesday that would make it illegal for U.S. officials to accept gifts, bribes, or payments from foreign countries unless it is approved by Congress beforehand. The long-running probe into the foreign financial affairs of former president Donald Trump has prompted this action.

Representative Jamie Raskin and Senator Richard Blumenthal have presented a measure to ensure that the Emoluments Clause is strictly enforced. This clause prohibits the president from accepting gifts or monetary compensation from outside sources without the explicit agreement of Congress. Since foreign diplomats routinely stayed at Trump hotels and visited his businesses, Democrats claim that he flagrantly broke this condition while in office.

The measure has little chance of passing, particularly with Republicans controlling the House, despite its significance. But Democrats are certain about how quickly change must occur, pointing to a House Oversight Committee report that found 20 foreign governments gave roughly $8 million to Trump’s companies while he was in office.

Several Trump businesses, including the Trump International Hotels in Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas, as well as two Trump properties in New York, were found to have received millions of dollars from foreign governments and their companies, according to the probe. Countries including China, Saudi Arabia, and the DRC sent substantial sums. Notably, Trump’s private commercial interests received the most funding from the Chinese government, mostly via its financial institutions—some of which were investigated by the Justice Department while Trump was president. Furthermore, around the period when Trump clinched a $100 billion weapons contract with the Saudi government, Saudi Arabia spent hundreds of millions of dollars at Trump’s hotels.

Democrats provide what they see as tangible proof of Trump’s wrongdoing in the 156-page report from the House Oversight Committee. Republicans, on the other hand, have sought to impeach President Joe Biden by tying him to comparable wrongdoing, but they have not been able to prove that Biden personally benefited from his family’s business dealings.

Many in the ethical legal community have taken issue with Trump’s choice to keep his commercial empire going strong while in office, claiming that it gave influential people a foot in the door to influence U.S. policy. As a defense, Trump and his lawyers have argued that the Emoluments Clause is being too literal and does not include things like paying for a hotel room or other fair-value transaction.

This bill would make it illegal for any federal official—president, vice president, cabinet members, members of Congress, and others—to receive bribes either while serving or for two years after leaving office, unless specifically authorized by Congress. Gifts and monies from royal families and state-owned businesses would also be prohibited. The measure seeks to promote openness by mandating that federal officials reveal any overseas payments on their yearly ethics reports.


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