Careful review of the Emoluments Clause shows that the Clause unquestionably applies to the President of the United States; that it covers an exceptionally broad and diverse range of remunerative relationships (including fair market value transactions that confer profit on a federal officeholder); and that it reaches payments and emoluments from foreign states (including state-owned and state-controlled corporations).
These examples are but the tip of an iceberg of unknowable dimension. They suggest the remarkably wide range of situations in which a foreign power could seek to confer a benefit on Mr. Trump through his private interests. Wholly apart from any actual quid pro quo arrangements or demonstrable bribes or payoffs, the Emoluments Clause will be violated whenever a foreign diplomat stays in a Trump hotel or hosts a reception in one; whenever foreign-owned banks offer loans to Mr. Trump’s businesses or pay rent for office space in his buildings; whenever projects are jump-started or expedited or licensed or otherwise advantaged because Mr. Trump is associated with them; whenever foreign prosecutors and regulators treat a Trump entity favorably; and whenever the Trump Organization makes a profit on a business transaction with any foreign state or foreign owned entity.
Invoking its powers and responsibilities under the Necessary & Proper Clause, the “Consent of Congress” language in the Emoluments Clause, and various Article I provisions relating to commerce, foreign affairs, and national security—might pass legislation imposing restrictions on continued presidential involvement in or ownership of businesses and assets that may receive foreign payments or emoluments. Indeed, on December 15, 2016, five Democratic Senators unveiled a bill that would require Mr. Trump to divest assets that risk of a conflict of interest—and to place the proceeds in a truly blind trust (among other ethics measures). Such legislation is plainly constitutional, and represents a proper and praiseworthy exercise of Congress’s oversight function.