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Congressman Eric Swalwell

Representing the 15th District of California

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Democrat congressman introduces bill to stop Trump from using office to ‘enrich himself and his family’

July 24, 2018
In The News

A Democratic congressman has introduced a bill to make it a criminal offence for the US president, vice president, their families or their companies in which they have at least half-ownership, to receive “anything of value” from a foreign power. 

California congressman Eric Swalwell’s bill, titled “Prevent Corrupting Foreign Influence Act”, is aimed at improving upon the US constitution’s emoluments clause that prohibits elected officials from receiving a 

“present” of any kind from a foreign state or a representative of a foreign government without consent from congress. 

The congressman said his new bill was aimed at stopping Donald Trump “from using his presidency to enrich himself and his family”.

“Unlike other presidents, Donald Trump has failed to distance himself from his private business interests while serving our nation, and so he and his family are getting richer from Trump companies that receive money and benefits from foreign powers,” Mr Swalwell said. “Americans deserve to know that their president is working for them and only them, not having his own wallet fattened by foreign interests.” 

Since Mr Trump was elected, there has been widespread public speculation over how separate the president would be from his businesses. Karl Racine, the attorney general of Washington DC, and Brian Frosh, the attorney general of Maryland, have sued Mr Trump for allegedly violating the constitution’s emoluments clause. Earlier this year, a federal judge ruled that the lawsuit could proceed.

“President Trump’s continued ownership interest in a global business empire, which renders him deeply enmeshed with a legion of foreign and domestic government actors, violates the constitution, calling into question the rule of law and the integrity of our political system,” their complaint read. 

As an example of an alleged violation, the lawsuit cited to Mr Trump’s ownership of luxury hotel and resort properties of which, the suit claimed, are rented by foreign and US government entities.

“The president continues to own luxury hotel and resort properties – including a new one just down the street from the White House – catering to foreign and state government business,” the suit read. 

Mr Swalwell said in a press release he was inspired to act after a company, with ties to the Chinese government, Metallurgical Corporation of China, loaned $500 million of US currency to Indonesian developers for an “integrated  lifestyle resort” called MNC Lido Citycalled MNC Lido City (which reportedly includes Trump-branded hotels, residences and a golf course). At the same time, Mr Trumpreceived bipartisan backlash over his administration’s efforts to lift sanctions and save Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE. 

Mr Swalwell’s bill hopes to take the current US Constitutional clause further by expanding the prohibitions on “presents” to include “anything of value”. Furthermore, “Prevent Corrupting Foreign Influence Act” would include prohibiting dealings with companies that are more than 50 per cent controlled by a foreign power. The prohibitions would extend to both the president’s and the vice president’s immediate families. The legislation would also make violations subject to criminal penalties – though it would not include past financial arrangements, Mr Swalwell said. 

“It’s long past time that congress takes a meaningful stand against any effort to buy and sell our White House,” he added. “America’s presidents and vice presidents must not enrich themselves from foreign sources – they should hold themselves to a higher standard, and if they won’t, it’s our job to do it for them.”