clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Trump’s business dealings may violate the Constitution. The Electoral College can stop him.

Unless he divests himself from all his businesses, Donald Trump is laying the groundwork to violate the Constitution of the United States the second he takes office. But he’s not president yet.

On December 19, the 538 members of the Electoral College have to cast their votes, and a majority of them have to vote in favor of Trump for him to earn the title. He may have won — sorry, did I say win? I mean lost — the popular vote by a margin larger than any other president in history. But he did win the Electoral College, and the electors have yet to vote.

Some have called efforts to pressure the Electoral College “crazy,” and if this were a normal election, I would agree. But “normal” is the last word anyone would use to describe 2016. So if the election wasn’t normal, why are we expecting the Electoral College to be?

Regardless of how you feel about the Electoral College as an institution, it exists for a specific reason: to prevent someone like Donald Trump to take office. When Alexander Hamilton helped create it in 1788, it was designed specifically to prevent a political crisis like the one America has been plunged into. In fact, if you read the Federalist Papers, of which Hamilton was one of the authors, it’s as if he were almost able to predict a man like Trump being this close to the White House.

The Electoral College is like if your iPhone had an “are you sure you want to send this sext to your mom instead of your boyfriend” button. The Electoral College once prevented voters from having direct access to presidential democracy. Now it may give the country the ability to prevent a huge mistake. Its goal was to make sure the role of president would never be filled by a person who doesn’t have the “requisite qualifications” and to protect the highest office in the land “from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.”

That remind you of someone?

No matter how you feel about Trump’s emotional instability or his bewildering approaches to foreign and domestic policy, one thing that is objectively bananas is his innumerable conflicts of interests. Given that Trump reportedly possesses at least 111 companies in 18 different countries, it would be practically impossible for Trump to prove that he is not financially benefiting from foreign governments. Since he won’t release his tax returns, the public doesn’t know the magnitude of the spiderweb of his domestic and international business holdings — and, most importantly, who is investing in them. And just like the Scotch tape holding his tie together, it’s shady AF.

If Trump were president right now, he would clearly be in violation of the Constitution by the actions he has taken since winning the election, by reportedly talking to British politician Nigel Farage about the windmills blocking the view of his golf course in Scotland. Or just look at how Trump won’t let go of his executive producer title, and presumably the profits, of NBC’s The Apprentice. These holdings would be in direct violation of the emoluments clause in Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution, which bars presidents from taking money or gifts from foreign leaders without Congress’s approval.

Now, I know this sounds insane, the Electoral College being filled with enough faithless electors to overturn the decision of a presidential election. It’s as crazy as … I don’t know … Donald Trump being president?

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.