Even More EC Fantasies

Debunked!

electoral-college-sabatoVia ThinkProgress:  Electoral College must reject Trump unless he sells his business, top lawyers for Bush and Obama say

Members of the Electoral College should not make Donald Trump the next president unless he sells his companies and puts the proceeds in a blind trust, according to the top ethics lawyers for the last two presidents.

Richard Painter, Chief Ethics Counsel for George W. Bush, and Norman Eisen, Chief Ethics Counsel for Barack Obama, believe that if Trump continues to retain ownership over his sprawling business interests by the time the electors meet on December 19, they should reject Trump.

In an email to ThinkProgress, Eisen explained that “the founders did not want any foreign payments to the president. Period.” This principle is enshrined in Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution, which bars office holders from accepting “any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”

[…]

This view is not a position of disgruntled liberals. Richard Painter, Bush’s Chief Ethics Counsel, was in complete agreement with Tribe and Eisen during a recent appearance on CNN.

“I don’t think the electoral college can vote for someone to become president if he’s going to be in violation of the Constitution on day one and hasn’t assured us he’s not in violation,” Painter said.

There is one rather major retort to this notion:  the electoral college is not a legal body, it is a political one.  Indeed, it is a political one populated by partisan loyalists.  Further, despite Federalist 68, it is not a deliberative body.

Likewise, impeachment is a political process, not a legal one.  For Trump to be impeached would require the Republicans in the House to act.  This is unlikely.  It will take more than we currently know about Trump’s business dealing to induce that kind of reaction from the GOP leadership.

If Trump’s business circumstances were sufficiently disqualifying that he would be reject-able by the electoral college or such that realistic impeachment talk was already warranted, he would never have been elected in the first place.

That Democrats and #NeverTrump Republicans see huge problems with a Trump presidency is not surprising.  The question is:  do the Republicans who voted for him and supported him take this view?  By definition, this is not the case.  Opponents need to stop projecting their views onto others.

Having said all of that, I don’t disagree with the following:

Eisen views the current situation as dire. If Trump is permitted to be sworn in as president without selling his companies, he says, the country is facing a “wholesale oligarchic kleptocracy of a kind that we have never seen before in our history.”

There is no doubt in my mind that his conflicts of interest are huge and that he does not even understand (or simply does not care) about the ethical lines he has crossed already and will no doubt cross in the future.  Still, the notion that these concerns will forestall his election by the electoral college is founded in ongoing wishful thinking.  Again:  all of this was a known risk before the election and yet here we are.  There is nothing that has substantively changed since November 8th that should induce us to expect massive behavioral changes in his supporters.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Donald Trump, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Gustopher says:

    Trump enriching himself is the least of my worries about the incoming administration.

    It’s disgustingly brazen, and the Republican House is probably never going to vote to impeach a Republican President, so there’s not much we can do about it other than be disgusted. Trump might actually be a billionaire after his term is up.

    Compared to the dangers of a foreign policy based on being really thin skinned, and a domestic policy that shreds the safety net, and an environmental policy of not caring about the environment, the lining of pockets will be a trivial misdemeanor that affects almost no one.

  2. Moosebreath says:

    @Gustopher:

    Not that I disagree with most of what you said, but…

    “the Republican House is probably never going to vote to impeach a Republican President”

    Unless he refuses to sign their agenda into law, in which case they may do so to get a more compliant hand on the signature pen in Pence.

  3. MBunge says:

    It seems like this is an example of why you sometimes let the easy ones go by without swinging at them. We had well over a year to focus attention on this very real and legitimate concern. Instead, people spent far more time on ego-flattering conspiracy theories about how Trump isn’t really that rich.

    Now, I suspect most folks will find it unreasonable to demand a businessman sell his business in order to serve as President and given the legalized bribery that infests US policymaking, they may wonder what’s wrong with Trump just cutting out the middleman.

    Mike

  4. stonetools says:

    There is no doubt in my mind that his conflicts of interest are huge and that he does not even understand (or simply does not care) about the ethical lines he has crossed already and will no doubt cross in the future. Still, the notion that these concerns will forestall his election by the electoral college is founded in ongoing wishful thinking. Again: all of this was a known risk before the election and yet here we are.

    Let’s be blunt:until 11.9 there was effectively zero coverage of Trump’s conflict of interest issues. On the other hand, there was massive over-coverage of possible Clinton Foundation conflict of interest issues.
    My theory of why that was is that the mainstream media could not imagine a Trump victory, so they focused relentlessly on the problems of the presumptive winner, Clinton. Now they are trying, desperately, to catch up after such coverage can’t do any d@mned good, really.
    The electors are going to do the easiest thing: put him in and hope, vainly, that he’ll shape up. A year or two from now, when there are massive financial scandals and a major league foreign policy cockup or two, maybe they’ll be some traction for getting rid of a useless institution that delivered a grossly unfit candidate to the Presidency over a competent popular vote winner.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    @MBunge:

    Now, I suspect most folks will find it unreasonable to demand a businessman sell his business in order to serve as President and given the legalized bribery that infests US policymaking, they may wonder what’s wrong with Trump just cutting out the middleman

    .

    Sure, because 1 = 10, a misdemeanor equals a felony, scale and gravity is irrelevant, accusation ad reality are the same thing. Trump is the most corrupt president in American history – before even being sworn in – and you’re just fine with that. Incessant whining over fantasy corruption at the Clinton Foundation which at worst leveraged access to help people with AIDS. And Trumpy the Pig in hock to foreign banks, in bed with foreign governments, toeing Putin’s line and you’re just suddenly, amazingly, completely unconcerned that a man who has never been about anything but money and ego might exploit the power of his office to line his own pocket.

    Do us all a favor and don’t talk about corruption, Mike. Some of us are still feeling a bit bloated and may well puke.

  6. john430 says:

    @michael reynolds: It reminds me of that sexual predator, Bill Clinton and his wife-enabler, renting out rooms at the White House.

    Of course, the Corrupt Clinton Foundation is a mere extension of that family’s inbred deceit. Did you puke then, Mike?

  7. michael reynolds says:

    @john430:

    See, here’s how hypocrisy works: you guys were the ones allegedly upset about corruption, you guys made it a huge issue, and now you guys no longer care, which makes you hypocrites.

    We would be hypocrites if we pretended to care about limiting guns but then suddenly thought it was a great idea for Obama to buy a machine gun. We don’t do that because we actually believe in something other than spite.

  8. john430 says:

    @michael reynolds: Ah, but there was evidence that the Clintons were/are corrupt. Right now you only have allegations and wishing it to be so.

  9. rachel says:

    @michael reynolds: Someone takes rumors against people he hates as facts and allegations that have emerged against someone he favors as not worthy of a moment’s thought. Really, what can you say to someone who is this far off from objective reality?

  10. michael reynolds says:

    @rachel:

    It’s a new fact of life that has caused me some strife to my Left and my Right. Evidently reality no longer matters.

  11. Tony W says:

    If the EC safety net cannot be used for this – correcting an obvious case of incoming kleptocracy and incompetence – what purpose exactly does the esteemed institution serve?

    Note: this is not merely sore-loser talk. I was upset when Bush won “re” election in 2004 but I did not advocate for EC intervention. We took our lumps and moved on.

  12. Becca says:

    @rachel: Did you hear the guy on NPR talking about his fake news “empire”?

    This fellow gave us the fake story about a dead FBI agent and Clinton emails, among others. He calls himself Jestin Coler and his fake news service Disinfomedia.

    Anyhoos, he said they tried doing fake news geared to liberals, but liberals don’t take the click bait, so no profit. A young Russian fake news entrepreneur said the same thing – liberals don’t bite, so he doesn’t bother.

    Says something about our John 430 and his fellow travelers, eh?

  13. george says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Sure, because 1 = 10, a misdemeanor equals a felony, scale and gravity is irrelevant, accusation ad reality are the same thing.

    Kind of what’s been happening through-out the elections. If corruption is corruption with no sense of scale, then Clinton is as corrupt as Trump. Similarly, if racism is racism, then Romney was as racist as Trump.

    Almost everything said about Trump in this election was said about Romney in the previous election (well, I suppose except for being crude – I don’t think he was called that). In the case of Romney it was partisan exaggeration (Obama was a much better choice, but Romney wouldn’t have been a disaster, despite what was said). Every political description has been dialed up to 11 on the Spinal Tap scale, so there’s no room left to differentiate.

    Clinton was corrupt, but was averagely so on the normal politician scale. Trump was way over the top. But its been awhile since either side talked in terms of grades of such things (really not a false equivalent, dig up some of the past criticisms of just about any candidate in this century). So whats the surprise if people don’t react anymore – they’ve heard it all before.

    I’m guilty of this in the past. I called Romney bat sh*t crazy in 2012, called him a racist and so on. Next time someone like Romney runs I think I’m going to try to have some perspective on my criticism – I suspect I can be critical without going over the top.

  14. @Tony W:

    If the EC safety net cannot be used for this – correcting an obvious case of incoming kleptocracy and incompetence – what purpose exactly does the esteemed institution serve?

    It doesn’t serve any purpose save to perpetuate a political compromise from the 1780s which has evolved into nothing more than a conduit for state level votes.

  15. al-Ameda says:

    @george:

    Clinton was corrupt, but was averagely so on the normal politician scale. Trump was way over the top. But its been awhile since either side talked in terms of grades of such things (really not a false equivalent, dig up some of the past criticisms of just about any candidate in this century). So whats the surprise if people don’t react anymore – they’ve heard it all before.

    Clinton was corrupt? The Clintons have been the subject of multiple Republican-directed investigations in the past 20-plus years, I wonder, have they been ever charged under any state or federal corruption laws? Or has the 25 year Republican effort to bring the Clintons down resulted in many people believing that the Clintons are corrupt?