WHAT IT IS
Emoluments are profit, salary, or fees from office or employment; compensation for services. [Merriam-Webster]
Emoluments can also be "advantage" or "gain received as a result of one's employment or one's holding of office." [Congressional Research Service]
The U.S. Constitution refers to emoluments three times. Each can be labeled as the "Emoluments Clause." [Legal Information Institute]
The Foreign Emoluments Clause:
“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” [U.S. Constitution Article I, Section 9, Clause 8]
The Domestic Emoluments Clause:
"The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them." [U.S. Constitution Article II, Section 1, Clause 7]
The Ineligibility Clause:
"No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office." [U.S. Constitution Article I, Section 6, Clause 2]
The clause most often referred to as "The Emoluments Clause" is the Foreign Emoluments Clause (Article I, Section 9, Clause 8).
The Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution forbids federal officeholders from accepting gifts or payment from a foreign state or that state’s rulers and representatives. [Encyclopedia Brittanica]
The Constitution also bars a president from receiving any additional emoluments from the domestic government. [US Constitution Article II, Section I, Paragraph 7]
WHY IT MATTERS
CIVICS: The Emoluments Clause stops U.S. government officials from being influenced or corrupted by foreign actors who may not share the interests of the American people. [Encyclopedia Britannica]
SOCIAL: With the House of Representatives beginning impeachment proceedings, emoluments is referred regularly in news cycles. Since President Trump hasn’t divested from his businesses, some believe he has opened himself up to possible emoluments from representatives of foreign governments. [Politico]
LEGAL: Three lawsuits are pending in federal courts that accuse President Trump of profiting off the presidency. [The Washington Post]. They are "pending" because presidents are unable to be prosecuted while in office. [Reuters]
WHERE WE ARE NOW
- Jan. 23, 2017: The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a lawsuit against President Trump, arguing that the president receives emoluments whenever a foreign government official rents from his properties.
- Sept. 24, 2019: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi initiated an impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump. [The Washington Post] Violation of the emoluments clause was considered as an article of impeachment.
Oct. 20, 2019: President Trump reversed his decision to host the G7 meeting at one of his properties, in large part due to the criticism from all sides saying he would benefit financially by having world leaders and their staff stay at his property. [TIME]
Oct. 21, 2019: President Trump referred to the Emoluments Clauses as “phony”. [Politico]
Oct. 13, 2020: The Supreme Court rejected hearing the case, keeping the lower court ruling in place. [The CT Mirror]
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
Read what lawmakers read on The Emoluments Clause, published by the Congressional Research Service.
What possible consequences could come from Congress "approving" the president's alleged emoluments violation? Should they approve it by doing nothing or verbalizing support?
Read an opinion by Medhi Hasan, who says the Democrats should widen the scope of the impeachment inquiry to include emoluments.
Here is a full, in-depth breakdown of the emoluments cases against President Trump from The Washington Post.