Episode 758: Can Trump Take The Money? : Planet Money The Constitution contains a paragraph known as the Emoluments Clause. It's 49 words meant to prevent foreign influence on US officials. How does it apply to a president with a global business empire?

Episode 758: Can Trump Take The Money?

Episode 758: Can Trump Take The Money?

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American Philosophical Society. Gift of the Richard Bache Duane Family of New York, 2014
Louis Marie Sicardi, Miniature Portrait of Louis XVI (1784) Watercolor on ivory
American Philosophical Society. Gift of the Richard Bache Duane Family of New York, 2014

In 1776, just after the U.S. declared independence, Benjamin Franklin traveled to France to serve as an ambassador. Franklin was a hit in Paris. When he returned home, King Louis XVI gave Franklin an extravagant gift - a portrait of the king ringed by 408 fine diamonds.

This gift kicked off a conversation among the Founding Fathers as they were drafting the constitution: Should politicians be able to benefit from their offices? How would we ensure elected officials stay independent? How do we prevent them from being influenced by foreign governments?

The founders wrote the Emoluments Clause into the U.S. Constitution.

It reads:

"No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, 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."

Now, these 49 words have been thrust into the spotlight.

A group of lawyers filed a suit against President Trump, days after he took office. They claim he is violating the Emoluments Clause. That he's profiting from his office: foreign diplomats are paying to stay in his hotels, the Apprentice airs on state-owned networks abroad, and China just granted the Trump name trademark protection.

We've never had a president like Donald Trump, and so we're only now testing the limits of the emoluments clause.

Today on the show: profits, diplomacy, ancient Rome, and a lawsuit against the president.

Music: "Superstandin" and "Come Back To Me." Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

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