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The list of President Trump's business deals keeps getting longer. So does the list of questions about his conflicts of interest. The central issue is emoluments, payments that benefit the president and have ties to foreign governments. NPR's Peter Overby reports.
PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: The Trump operation has been trying to navigate the emoluments issue since before he was sworn in. At a press conference last month, Trump lawyer Sheri Dillon laid out a decision to avoid one source of emoluments - new business deals.
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SHERI DILLON: The trust agreement, as directed by President Trump, imposes severe restrictions on new deals.
OVERBY: She spelled it out.
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DILLON: No new foreign deals will be made whatsoever during the duration of President Trump's presidency. New domestic deals will be allowed. But they will go through a vigorous vetting process.
OVERBY: Emolument questions keep on coming. The Trump Organization pushes to expand a golf course and hotel in Scotland. Eric Trump visits the Dominican Republic, where a branding deal for a resort may be in the works. The Trump Organization's general counsel didn't respond to a request for comment.
Trump sidestepped an apparent emolument just last week. He took the Japanese prime minister and his wife to Mar-a-Lago, the resort Trump owns in Florida and said he personally would pay for his guests. That meant the government of Japan did not pay Trump's for-profit club for their lodging.
LARRY NOBLE: For some reason, he really seems to refuse to try to steer away from situations that will cause problems.
OVERBY: Larry Noble is general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center.
NOBLE: It's not like he's going to try to minimize the problem. But rather, he apparently is just going to keep going through and using what he wants to use and taking these kind of half-steps.
OVERBY: The bar against foreign emoluments is straight out of the Constitution. But another part of the provision hasn't gotten much attention.
NORM EISEN: The framers left the safety valve.
OVERBY: Norm Eisen co-wrote a lawsuit challenging President Trump on emoluments.
EISEN: Let Mr. Trump go to Congress transaction by transaction. Congress will do the oversight and will say, is it an emolument or not? But the framers did not intend for him to make those decisions.
OVERBY: Instead, questions about emoluments and conflicts of interest have been piling up through the Trump administration's first hundred days. Eisen points to the case of presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway. In a TV interview last week, she urged viewers to buy merchandise marketed by Ivanka Trump. Product endorsements are against the law for federal employees. Eisen said that ordinarily this would be relatively minor news.
EISEN: A mistake, a clear violation but people do stumble over these rules.
OVERBY: But with the turmoil over White House ethics, it became a national headline story. And Republicans and Democrats in Congress have called on the administration to discipline Conway.
Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.
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