In a move that is sure to have President Donald Trump and his fans fuming, the Los Angeles City Council recently voted unanimously in favor of a resolution that calls for a full investigation into whether Trump should be impeached. The resolution in question, which was approved this past Friday, was authored by Councilmember Bob Blumenfeld and raises the issue of whether the president has violated the Federal Emoluments Clause or committed any other impeachable offenses.
In passing the resolution, Los Angeles is just the latest in the list other cities that have passed similar resolutions calling for an investigation into Trump’s possible impeachment following in the footsteps of its fellow California towns Berkeley and Richmond. L.A. is actually the fifth city to pass such a resolution, joining Charlotte, Vermont and Cambridge, Massachusetts on an ever-growing list.
The Emoluments Clause prohibits any elected U.S. official from financially benefitting in any way from a foreign government. These benefits can include actual monetary gifts, but also accepting through payments made for goods or services.
In speaking about the resolution, Council member Blumenfeld specifically pointed to the various Trump brand hotels and other properties in the U.S. and around the world. He stated that constitutional scholars were already looking into the issue to determine whether or not a foreign official or embassy staying at one of the hotels or hosting an event at one of Trump’s properties was a violation of this clause.
Noting that the president has properties in strategically important countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and India, Blumenfeld pointed out that the Trump Tower in Manila alone could easily earn the president ‘millions of dollars in licensing fees.’
The numerous potential conflicts of interest and Trump’s continued refusal to release his tax returns necessitates this type of investigation. Furthermore, the huge lack of transparency showed by the president and his associates as it pertains to the president’s business dealings means that a full investigation by the Senate is likely the only way we will ever know everything about how, where and with who the Trump Organization works.
Without the tax returns, it is impossible to know the exact extent of the president’s business dealings and therefore who he might be dealing with. If it turns out any of these dealings involve a foreign official or other foreign government, this would obviously be a direct violation of the Emoluments Clause and thus grounds for impeachment.
President Trump’s decision to simply hand over the reins of the Trump empire to his two sons— instead of following in the footsteps of his predecessors and fully divesting his assets or putting them into an actual blind trust—simply doesn’t go far enough. Despite claiming that this action would eliminate any conflicts of interest, there is still no way for anyone to know whether or not the president is still benefitting from his business empire.
Furthermore, Trump has continued to claim that the American people don’t really care about his tax returns, when almost every poll shows the opposite is true. Even worse, the president has actually gone on record as stating that it is impossible for the president to have conflicts of interest, which simply isn’t true to the Federal Emoluments Clause.
Of course, there is nothing that the City of Los Angeles or any other local or state government can actually do to begin an impeachment investigation as this would require the action of the Senate. In a sense, this means that the resolutions are little more than a publicity stunt to draw attention to the issue. Still, one can always hope that enough attention will be drawn to eventually force the Senate into doing something.