The phrase, quid pro quo, directly translates from Latin as “something for something.” In modern English this Latin phrase is used to mean an exchange of goods or services, in which one transfer is contingent upon the other. Ever since the story first broke regarding President Trump’s scandalous phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump has vehemently denied that there was any sort of quid pro quo. However, the Trump Administration’s acting Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, admitted in a press conference last Thursday, October 17, 2019, that President Trump withheld aid from Ukraine as part of a quid pro quo.
Mulvaney opened up with tasteless jokes about not wearing a certain hat to the press conference for fear of allegations of foreign interference and a brief statement regarding the passing of U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings earlier that day. He then moved into the Trump administration’s search process for adequate facilities to host the G-7 Summit in June of 2020. Ultimately, Chief of Staff Mulvaney announced that the administration had decided to host the summit at the Trump National Doral in Miami, Florida.
Immediately after Mulvaney went on to defend this decision in light of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution of the United States. Before we even delve into what exactly the emoluments clause is and whether or not it has been violated by President Trump and his administration, one should question Mulvaney’s choice to defend their decision of Trump National Doral as the location of the 2020 G-7 Summit. If he is anticipating questions from the press about that decision being a violation of the Emoluments Clause, then it seems likely that there is certainly a valid foundation to make that claim.
In short, Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution prohibits any person holding a government office from accepting any present, emolument, office, or title from any King, Prince, or foreign state, without the consent of Congress. Let’s look at the definition of emolument really quick: “emolument: a salary, fee, or profit from employment or office.”
This isn’t the first time that the Trump National Doral in Miami made headlines. In 2016, Miami-Dade County Circuit Court Judge Jorge Cueto ordered The Trump Organization to pay a paint supply company $34,863.92 by June 28, 2016, or face foreclosure. In August of 2016 the Doral came into headlines again when the resort’s tax bills came under scrutiny. From 2012 to 2016, Trump often claimed that his Florida resorts were appraised at a much higher value than they might actually be worth. At the same time, Trump’s lawyers consistently argued in court that the value assessment of the property was much lower than any figure every quoted by Trump himself. This also isn’t the first time that Trump’s political goals and economic interests coincided.
In late 2018, the New York state attorney general’s office charged that nearly $3 million in charitable funds raised by the Trump Foundation illicitly bolstered Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The foundation is registered in New York, where state law prohibits charities from participating in political events. The suit took particular issue with the Trump Foundation’s January 2016 fundraiser for veterans organizations, which occurred just days before the Iowa caucuses.
According to New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood’s office, the event was largely directed by Trump’s campaign staff, who oversaw the allocation of funds. The over-sized checks presented to recipients at the fundraiser bore Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan emblazoned on the bottom, which is a clear violation of New York state law. The lawsuit also took issue with the structure of the foundation itself and noted that its board of directors was essentially non-existent, having not met since 1999. Ultimately, the Trump Foundation agreed to dissolve under court supervision.
One can easily get lost in the ever-growing list of corrupt, illegal, and unconstitutional dealings of President Trump and his administration. In fact, just two weeks ago at a rally in Minneapolis the Trump Campaign violated its agreement made in 2018 to “cease all use” of Prince’s music.
Back to the topic at hand: Mick Mulvaney’s Admission and Defense of Quid Pro Quo with Ukraine.
Mulvaney mentioned that they had talked about the difficulties of doing this event at no-cost versus doing it at market rates. First and foremost, someone would be paying for the G-7 Summit at the Trump National Doral, unless the president would be willing to eat the costs himself, which seems unlikely based on his track record. On one hand, if the American tax-payers foot the bill then President Trump profits from his office at the expense of the American people. On the other hand, if they do the event at market rates and foreign governments have to pay for their own rooms, then President Trump still profits from his office, simply at the behest of foreign governments and in clear violation of the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution.
However, no matter who would be paying the costs, The Trump Organization and Donald Trump would get all of the free press and publicity necessary to boost the sales of his products and services. That in and of itself fits the description of an emolument, in which a government official profits from their office. The Chief of Staff also noted that President Trump has made it very clear that, “he doesn’t profit from being here, he has no interest in profit from being here, it’s one of the reasons that he’s not taken a salary since he’s been here, he’s given that salary to charity.” However, relinquishing his salary isn’t a unique act, President Herbert Hoover and President John F. Kennedy did the same thing during their tenure in office.
After Mulvaney turned to the press pool for questions, the first one out of the gate was “How is this not just a huge conflict of interest to hold the G-7 at his own resort? And how will the president continue to criticize the Biden family for self-dealing at the same time he’s doing this?” Mulvaney said that it was already made clear that no profit is being made here, to which the reporter accurately questioned is this not simply a huge branding and marketing opportunity. Mulvaney’s defense was that Trump’s brand is the strongest it has ever been and that the Trump name is likely the most recognized in the English language around the world right now.
Simply put, that defense is just not good enough. For years the only true estimation of the value of The Trump Organization and the Trump brand has come from the mouth of Donald Trump himself. His refusal to release various tax and financial records that might provide evidence for his claims lends doubt to any valuation he makes about himself, his organization, or his brand. This line of defense sounds even more hollow when used as an example for other arguments. It would be like saying, “Trump is rich enough! What’s a few more million going to do?” Any opportunity for marketing or branding is inherently an opportunity for profit.
As for the content of the 2020 G-7, despite reportedly set to be held in Miami, Florida, Mick Mulvaney declared that Climate Change would not be on the agenda. This is disturbing news when there is a strong consensus among the scientific community about the phenomenon of climate change.
Various journalists from the press pool continued to grill Chief of Staff Mulvaney about the White House’s decision to move forward with the Trump National Doral for the 2020 G-7 Summit.
In a clarifying Q&A about President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, Mick Mulvaney once again confirmed that there was in fact a quid pro quo between Trump and Zelensky. Mulvaney further admitted that, “We do it all the time” in regards to this type of power brokerage. According to Chief of Staff Mulvaney, the flow of aid to Ukraine was contingent on them investigating the Democratic National Committee (DNC). This investigation is purportedly based on supposed conspiratorial claims that Ukraine, not Russia, was at the center of the 2016 election interference in the United States.
One reporter asked, “Is there any value to sending a message to the world, especially given that all that’s happened with foreign interference and attempts at foreign interference in our country, that this president and this country is not open for the kind of self-dealing that happens in other countries, is that not an important message to send when you’re inviting the world to come here to the United States?”
Chief of Staff Mulvaney: “No.”
So, this president and this country are open for the kind of self-dealing that happens in other countries. The very thing that President Trump has alleged of the Biden family. The American people appreciate the clarification Mr. Mulvaney. Is Mulvaney’s answer not only an admission of corruption, but an invitation to foreign governments as well?
Two days after the press conference Trump took to Twitter to announce that the administration had reversed its decision regarding Trump National Doral Miami as the location of the 2020 G-7 summit. In his tirade of Tweets, President Trump blamed both the media and Democrats, in typical fashion, for their “crazed and irrational hostility.” Who knew that outrage at a blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution was considered “crazed and irrational hostility.” That seems more like the opinion of a would-be dictator that fancies himself above the law of the land than the opinion of the leader of the “so-called” free world.
The Political Historian strives to bring authentic and honest news and political commentary to your daily news and social media feeds. If you enjoy reading articles from The Political Historian, please consider making a contribution to our organization. We run on small donations, coffee, and a general distaste for a broken system.