Before Jimmy Carter took office in 1977, the unlikely candidate turned unlikely president turned over all records pertaining to his Georgia peanut farm—his one major real estate holding—before placing it in a blind trust and appointing an independent trustee allowed to act without Carter’s knowledge or consent. The reason why this precaution was taken was to uphold the invulnerability of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits any U.S. government official from receiving gifts or income from foreign governments without permission from Congress. For example, if Mexico, Canada, or the USSR had purchased Carter peanuts, that conflict could feasibly rebound and affect the American people.
Donald Trump owns quite a bit more real estate than a peanut farm in Georgia. In fact, according to the Trump Organization’s online portfolio, the Donald is owner of 38 residential and commercial properties—not including hotels and golf courses—in nine states and in countries all over the world. It’s these latter interests that pose the biggest threat, though his ability to profit off the presidency at home by, for example, making himself the Secret Service’s Landlord, shouldn’t go unstated. With Trump properties adorning waterfronts and recently-trendy city blocks in Vancouver, Istanbul, Seoul, Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro, and Manila, and planned properties in the works—most famously in Buenos Aires—Trump is in more danger of violating the Constitution in this fashion (and others, and perhaps democracy as a whole) than any other previous administration. The opportunities available for him to monetize his position through working with foreign governments are plentiful, and with each dollar he makes from foreign sources the less involved and invested he is with his all-important catchphrase about the greatness of America.
Jimmy Carter, whom many will remember as the worst president of the modern era—until Trump takes office, handed in his tax returns and made certain that his modest peanut farm was in absolutely zero danger of violating the Constitution. Donald Trump has still refused to give any indication that he is actually the successful honest businessman he claims to be. He has already mired his presidency with his business by inviting Ivanka to his Japan meeting and by creating buzz around his Buenos Aires tower. The Constitution was written to protect us from an abusive president like Trump is apparently planning to be. Congress and the American people must use it now or regret it forever.