May 15, 2018

GOOD LUCK WITH THAT, CHAMP: Obama ethics chief accuses Trump of violating emoluments clause: ‘See you in court Mr. Trump.’

Leaving aside the standing issue, there’s a strong argument that the emoluments clause doesn’t cover the President, and also no reason to think that business income is an “emolument” anyway.

None of which is to say that the Indonesia deal isn’t sleazy — it might be, or it might not be, but it’s not an emoluments clause violation, and that fact that Trump critics are focusing on the emoluments issue suggests to me that there’s not much else there. According to the NYT story, the scandal is that a Chinese concern is building a theme park next door to a “Trump-branded hotel” that isn’t actually owned by Trump:

The Trump Organization’s partner in a lavish Indonesian development project boasting a six-star hotel and golf course with President Trump’s name has brought on a new ally: a Chinese state-owned company.

The Indonesian partner, the MNC Group, said Tuesday that it had struck a deal with an arm of Metallurgical Corporation of China, a state-owned construction company, to build a theme park next door to the planned Trump properties. . . .

The Chinese state-owned construction company, in an announcement of the deal, did not provide any details on the agreement. The announcement, which was initially published on its website, was later taken down. A representative for M.C.C. declined to comment.

Both the theme park and the Trump-branded hotel and 18-hole golf course are being developed by the billionaire Hary Tanoesoedibjo, head of the MNC Group, and packaged together as part of a splashy $500 million complex called Lido City that it has marketed as an “integrated lifestyle resort and theme park.”

Hatunggal Muda Siregar, a spokesman for MNC, said the theme park and the Trump properties are separate projects within the Lido development. The agreement with the Chinese company to build the theme park does not include any financing for the project, he said. . . .

There isn’t any evidence that the agreement with the construction company was intended to sway the Trump administration on any matters. Still, Mr. Trump has threatened China with tariffs on $150 billion in Chinese-made goods if it doesn’t back away from plans to use state support to finance a new generation of high-tech industries.

“There isn’t any evidence. . . . Still. . . ”

Seems like there’s a lot less there than the headlines suggest.

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