On the Notion That the Constitution Should Change for Trump
As the extent of the president-elect’s conflicts becomes clear, some call for changing our defining document rather than holding him accountable.
Published on December 21, 2016

In a week of many headlines, I’ll begin with an odd one from ThinkProgress: “Under political pressure, Kuwait cancels major event at Four Seasons, switches to Trump’s D.C. hotel.” Again, during a week where Putin and Assad opted for wholesale butchery in Aleppo and the Electoral College proved itself to be an ineffectual relic, where a delegation from the country Barry Crimmins once called “an oil company with a flag” stays in D.C. might not seem like the most important issue facing the world at the moment.

And to be sure, for someone in a Syrian foxhole the movements of the Kuwaiti elite are likely around the same slot on the interests list as how the Capitals will do against the Flyers tonight. But since Trump refuses to divest from his business interests in any meaningful way, or even divulge his tax information as every president before him has, the Kuwaiti delegation’s decision will mean—not could mean, as aggregators have tended to put it this week—that Donald Trump is in violation of the Constitution the moment he takes the oath of office.

Remember, the precedent for impeachment is lying under oath—thanks for not keeping it in your pants, Billy Jeff—and as the Tangerine Terror takes the oath to uphold the Constitution, he will also be receiving money through his D.C. hotel directly from a foreign government, violating Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of the document. This passage, known as the emoluments clause (emolument is an out of use word describing any form of payment) makes it a crime to accept gifts from a foreign power: “No Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], 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.”

But despite the clear case to move against Trump in court, some on the demagogue’s side have been coming out in favor of changing the Constitution rather than forcing their dear leader to adhere to the perfectly reasonable guidelines set by the founders to protect their fragile experiment in representative democracy from foreign influence. Most notably, Newt Gingrich appeared on NPR this week to suggest that Congress make the presidency a more amenable position for Trump’s business interests. “We’ve never seen this kind of wealth in the White House, and so traditional rules don’t work,” Gingrich said during a panel discussion on The Diane Rehm Show. “We’re going to have to think up a whole new approach.”

For the former Speaker of the House, professional spewer of religious ignorance, and (in related news) noted hypocrite, this new order would also have Trump pre-emptively pardoning those in his inner circle for crimes stemming from conflicts of interest. “In the case of the president, he has a broad ability to organize the White House the way he wants to. He also has, frankly, the power of the pardon…. It’s a totally open power. He could simply say, ‘Look, I want them to be my advisers. I pardon them if anyone finds them to have behaved against the rules. Period.’ Technically, under the Constitution, he has that level of authority.”

In other words, a someone who was once second only to the vice president in line for the Oval Office has advocated the dictatorial use of power by the executive. The time for chances is over. Trump’s presidency is a matter of life or death for the American experiment, and that is not normal, no matter what 24-hour news wastes its time on.

Tim Baker
Tim Baker is a New York-based writer and sometimes editor whose work has appeared in Newsweek, TV Guide, CBS and Discovery Special Editions, and can regularly be found at He has an MFA in creative writing from The New School and also attended Hunter College of the City University of New York.
Share this article with your friends!
By using our site you agree to our use of cookies to deliver a better experience.