It's safe to say that most Americans didn't know what an emolument was before Donald Trump became president, and even fewer knew there was an Emoluments Clause in the Constitution. But as the legal case accusing Trump of violating that clause moves forward, we're guessing more of us will brush up on professional ethics reading.
A slew of subpoenas were issued relating to that lawsuit, so it's probably a good time to remind you what the case is about, and what the subpoenas potentially mean. And you can get a look at those subpoenas below.
What's an Emolument?
Trump is accused in a civil lawsuit of violating Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits federal office holders from accepting "any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State." The suit was filed by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), who claim that foreign governments patronizing Trump-owned businesses (all while he has not divested himself from those businesses) amount to an emolument.
At the time the suit was filed, Trump told the New York Times, "the law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can't have a conflict of interest." He later asserted, "I have a no-conflict situation because I'm president." That trenchant legal analysis has failed to derail the lawsuit, however, and yesterday a federal judge signed and issued 30 subpoenas on behalf of the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia as the case prepares for trial.
What's a Subpoena?
The subpoenas filed in the emoluments case target 13 Trump-affiliated business entities, including the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C., the Trump Organization, and the revocable trust his legal counsel created in an attempt to divest his financial stake in those entities while he remains president. The subpoenas are seeking information on "which foreign governments and which domestic governments are paying the Trump Post Office hotel, then where's it going, and how is the Trump hotel affecting the hospitality industry in D.C. and in Maryland."
Subpoenas are formal demands for a person or business entity to provide testimony or evidence in a legal case. They can either compel a person to testify during a trial or hand over documents, objects, or information relevant to the case. Subpoenas in this case were also served on the IRS and four other federal agencies, ostensibly to gather information on how much Trump and his entities made from foreign governments and officials.
Here are those subpoenas: