CAMBRIDGE — The largest East Coast city yet is calling for the impeachment of President Trump, as several legislative bodies across the U.S. have begun to officially question the alleged ethical and financial decisions of Trump.
The Cambridge, MA City Council voted to pass a resolution urging the House Committee on the Judiciary to investigate whether sufficient grounds exist for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, for violations of the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses of the United States Constitution.
The Emoluments Clause of Article 1 states, “No Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them [i.e., 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.”
The clause’s intention is to stop elected officials and public officials who work abroad from accepting gifts from foreign governments in order to maintain uncorrupted loyalties to the United States. Councilors passed the resolution 7-1-1 after Councilor David Maher voted “no,” and Councilor Toomey voted “present,” saying that the issue would be best handled by the Massachusetts legislative delegation to D.C. instead of by a locality.
The motion was originally brought by Vice Mayor Marc McGovern, Councilor Jan Devereux, and Councilor Leland Cheung, and authored by the Cambridge Area Stronger Together Organization (CAST), an activist organization working to combat Trump’s policies on a local level. It states, “On Jan. 11, 2017, nine days before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump announced a plan that would, if carried out, remove him from day-to-day operations of his businesses, but not eliminate any of the ongoing flow of emoluments from foreign governments, state governments, or the United States government”
When talking about how a city resolution could influence national policy, McGovern was staunch in his views. He told Paste Magazine, “When Florida legislators see a policy order from Cambridge, they’re not going to say ‘we’re going to impeach a Republican president.’” But it’s really important we don’t remain silent. Especially now that municipalities and local leaders stand up, resist, and push back. I filed a policy order right after the election reaffirming our commitment to being a sanctuary city. I filed policy orders preparing the city for any funding cuts coming to us, we can’t sit and be silent. My hope is other cities will see this. I’m hoping other cities say, “hey, let’s join in on this.”’
Other cities that have called for an investigation include Richmond, Alameda, and Berkeley, California, and Charlotte, Vermont.
Devereux said, “I hope that other, far less liberal cities look to our example—everyone expects the ‘People’s Republic of Cambridge’ to do this kind of thing, but when it will really gain momentum is when cities that are not known as the people’s republic of anywhere jump on this bandwagon and say, ‘something doesn’t smell right.’”
CAST activist Johanna Schulman explained how a local resolution could impact policy in D.C. in her testimony. “Impeachment is a process that begins with the House Judiciary committee determining whether foundations for further investigation even exist. It is that step which this resolution demands.”
One predicament that could be in violation of the clause includes Trump’s involvement with 38 Trump trademarks being approved by China in March. The concern is that an elected official cannot make unbiased policy decisions without the consideration of favors from another government or indebtedness. Trump’s business interests span the globe, with hotels, skyscrapers, golf courses, and holdings in Dubai, Israel, China, Panama, South Korea, and several others.
After many months of media attention, Trump announced he was transferring control of The Trump Organization to his sons. Recently, documents obtained by investigative outlet ProPublica show that Trump is the sole beneficiary of a trust that holds his assets, while his son Donald Trump Jr., and his Chief Financial Officer, Allen Weisselberg, have legal control of the trust, as of Jan 19.
Ben Clements, Board Chair of Free Speech for People, an organization calling for the impeachment of Trump, testified on Monday, saying, “we have had our worst fears and then some acknowledged by this presidency. Not only does the president refuse to divest in his business interests, but he grossly misuses the office to benefit himself, his family and his associates.”
Cantabrigian Rachael Worden was the sole defender of Trump, saying, “He didn’t just walk into the White House unsolicited. There were Trump signs across the country, from Western Mass. to California.” She did not address the resolution specifically.
A group of professors, including Richard Painter of the University of Minnesota, filed a Constitutional lawsuit against the president alleging he was in violation of the Emoluments Clause by not fully disconnecting his international business interests from the Presidency. Interestingly, Painter is a former White House ethics attorney for President George W. Bush.
The lawsuit, currently pending in the Southern District of New York, claims Trump has received money from foreign diplomats staying in his hotels and leasing space in his buildings and real estate holdings.