University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
Title "Ethics in the Executive Branch: Enforcing the Emoluments Clause"
Date Nov 1, 2019
Author Claire Gianotti
Author Institution The Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics
External Link
Abstract We live in an extraordinary moment for government ethics in the United States. Throughout American history, Presidents have, in general, proactively complied with the evolving ethical standards associated with the office. These include restrictions codified at the nation’s founding: the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution. Today, these standards are regulated by mechanisms that are self-policing—triggered by the voluntary consent of the President himself. But this dependence upon fragile cultural norms have proven a fallibility during the Trump Presidency.

The Trump presidency has applied extraordinary and novel pressure to this ethics apparatus. Under the current pressure, traditional safeguards to manage conflicts of interest by executive branch officials have proven ineffective. A sys- tem of ethics that was rooted in fragile norms is in the midst of an existential cri- sis. The result is litigation that is testing our nation’s judiciary, and straining our separation of powers jurisprudence. The situation calls for a reckoning by ethics lawyers and elected officials about the future of ethical oversight in the United States.

The Foreign Emoluments Clause found in Article I generally prohibits any per- son holding an “office of profit or trust” from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or for- eign State.” The Domestic Emoluments Clause, included in Article II’s provi- sion for a presidential salary, prohibits receipt by the President of any “other Emolument from the United States, or any of them” during his term in office.

This Resource Relates To
case Blumenthal v. Trump (PR-DC-0004)

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