Swalwell Introduces Bill to Stop Trump From Using the Presidency to Enrich Himself and His Family

July 23, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15) introduced Prevent Corrupting Foreign Influence Act on Monday to significantly improve upon the existing ban on America’s highest elected officials receiving financial benefits from foreign powers.

The new bill would make it a criminal offense for the President, the Vice President, their families, or companies in which they have at least half-ownership to accept or receive anything of value from a foreign power or from any company that is more than 50 percent controlled by a foreign power.

“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,” 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.”

Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush used blind trusts to isolate their business interests while in office. President Barack Obama didn’t only because he didn’t hold any interests or assets that could present a conflict of interests.

The Constitution already prohibits government employees – including elected officials, but not their relatives – from receiving “emoluments” or gifts from foreign states except as allowed by Congress. Current statutes implement this ban, provide reporting for gifts which are allowed, and provide for civil penalties for violations.

The Prevent Corrupting Foreign Influence Act would improve upon current law. First, it would expand the prohibition’s scope from merely gifts to include “anything of value.” Second, it would expand the prohibition’s application – for sources, to include companies controlled by foreign countries, and for recipients, to include the President’s and Vice President’s immediate family members and companies they control. Third, it would make violations subject to criminal penalties.

Swalwell was inspired to draft the bill after a Chinese government-controlled company – the Metallurgical Corporation of China – loaned $500 million to benefit a massive development project in Indonesia, called Lido City, in which the Trump organization is involved.  At the same time, President Trump has eased sanctions on Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE.

Swalwell also noted the Trump family companies’ long history of Russian investments and banking connections – a cause for concern as the President charts an inexplicably close relationship with the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin despite that nation’s interference in America’s elections. Though the new bill would not criminalize past financial arrangements, it would ensure no such relationships continue.

Events like these demonstrate a danger that foreign states can use a web of connections between President Trump, his family members, and their family business to exert improper influence over official decisions. 

“It’s long past time that Congress takes a meaningful stand against any effort to buy and sell our White House,” Swalwell said. “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.”

Click here to read the full text of the Prevent Corrupting Foreign Influence Act.