U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur introduces bill to block Donald Trump from accepting foreign gifts

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur introduces bill to block Donald Trump from accepting foreign gifts
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By Sabrina Eaton

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The day President-elect Donald Trump described how he'll keep his business interests from conflicting with national interest, Toledo Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur introduced legislation to block Trump from accepting foreign gifts while he's president.

Kaptur's bill -- cosponsored by Democrats including Tim Ryan of the Niles area and Marcia Fudge of Warrensville Heights -- would deny congressional consent for the billionaire businessman to "accept any present, Emolument, Office, or Title of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign state."

Kaptur said her bill, a long shot in a Republican Congress, would ensure that Trump complies with the U.S. Constitution's Emolument's Clause, which is meant to fight bribery.

The clause bans any "Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States]" from accepting "any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State" without consent from Congress.

She said the global reach of Trump's business interests means "the possibility of hidden influences will eclipse every action and decision Mr. Trump makes."

"Congress owes it to the American people to ensure that Constitutional principles are upheld in the interests of liberty," said a statement from Kaptur that asked House Speaker Paul Ryan to bring her measure to the House Floor for a vote.

A report constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe co-authored with ethics advisors to Presidents Bush and Obama says that never in history has a president presented more conflict of interest questions and foreign entanglements than Trump.

They suggest foreign powers could try currying favor with Trump by doing business with his companies, resulting in "situations that present the appearance of impropriety and fuel persistent doubts (at home and abroad) about the integrity of our political system." It recommended that Trump and his children "divest themselves of all ownership interests in the Trump business empire."

At a news conference on Wednesday, Trump announced that he'll turn all his business operations over to a trust run by his sons and a longtime employee. He also said he'll donate all his hotel profits from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury.

"President-elect Trump wants the American public to rest assured that all of his efforts are directed to pursuing the people's business and not his own," attorney Sheri Dillon said in describing Trump's efforts to avoid any perception of conflict.

The announced measures didn't satisfy groups like Common Cause, Public Citizen and the Sunlight Foundation, which called them inadequate.

"Trump knows what he owns, and he knows how policy choices will affect his business," said a statement from Public Citizen president Robert Weissman, who claimed the nation is on the verge of "witnessing the first for-profit president." He said Trump must sell the family business to avoid conflicts.

Kaptur spokesman Josh Stewart said his boss will have to examine the business agreements Trump releases to decide whether it would help him comply with the Constitution.

Even though Trump's Republican party controls Congress - making the prospect of a vote on her legislation unlikely - Stewart said Kaptur is hopeful her idea will catch on. He said she'll continue seeking cosponsors for the bill.

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