Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland’s Democratic senator-elect, says members of the Electoral College should get an intelligence briefing on Russia’s influence on the presidential election before they vote on Monday. In an email last night, Van Hollen’s office directed supporters to an online petition calling for the Director of National Intelligence to brief electors on Russia’s alleged hacking of the Democratic National Committee in an effort to hurt the campaign of Hillary Clinton and help her Republican opponent, Donald Trump. Meanwhile, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings and other Democratic members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform staged a forum on Wednesday on another challenge to Trump -- whether the Manhattan billionaire should divest all his businesses before Inauguration Day. As I reported in Sunday’s column, legal scholars who served both Republican and Democratic presidents believe Trump will violate the emoluments clause of the Constitution if he takes the oath of office without first divesting and putting his assets in a blind trust. The emoluments clause bars any official from accepting salary, gift or profit from a foreign power.
"Our nation has never before had a president with such vast global entanglements and financial conflicts of interest,” Cummings said at the forum. “Our nation has also not had a president, at least in many decades, who has engaged in such extreme secrecy, including refusing to let the American people see his tax returns."
It’s appalling that not a single House Republican has shown the slightest concern about Trump’s possible violation of the emoluments clause.
But that’s apparently fine with several readers of The Baltimore Sun who complained about my Sunday column -- not specifically about the points it raised, but that it was even written and published.
The complaints came in by email, some of them profane. Only one of the bunch addressed Trump’s potential business conflicts. The rest were of this nature: “Get over it. Trump won. Move on.”
As Democrats continue to focus on questions of the election’s legitimacy and Trump’s compliance with the Constitution, Trump supporters insist it’s time for the president-elect’s opponents to give up their challenges and accept reality.
Here’s one such letter -- under the subject line, “Sunday rant” -- from a reader named Kenny:
“Dan, let it go...Trump won. Really emoluments clause. You democrat's (sic) just won't stop, and you all got on Trump for not accepting the vote. Too funny for all of us who voted for Trump. Keep writing though it gives us all something else to ponder what will you say next.”
Here’s what I’ll say next:
First of all, the Sunday column on the important issue of the Constitution and the president-elect was no rant. A rant — “speak or shout at length in a wild, impassioned way” — is more like the sort of irrational, angry orations one might hear in talk radio or at a Trump rally. (As a printed form, “screed” is probably the correct word: “a ranting piece of writing.”)
So, to clarify, my column was neither “rant” nor “screed.” It was, more than anything else, exposition on a current issue, with some opinion and quotes from informed experts.
As for Kenny’s comment: “Really emoluments clause.” (I think he might have meant, “Really? Emoluments clause?”)
Yes, really. It’s not some stretch to find fault with Trump. It’s a clause in the Constitution that speaks to the present situation.
Sorry, Trump supporters, but your man has issues. To think that we would now just drop all questions raised by his election, particularly because of what we’re learning about the Russians, is not only ridiculous but irresponsible.
You might think your job is done as a citizen: You voted for Trump, and that’s that.
Many of us -- maybe even some who voted for Trump because they couldn’t stand Clinton -- have loads of questions about the Russian connections, about his potential conflicts as a businessman with companies around the globe, about the troubling selections for his cabinet.
So no, sir, we won’t “let it go.”
To “let it go” would be to talk away from all duties as an active citizen.
Remember how some would not let Obama’s election go? Remember the birther movement? Remember, “We want our country back?” It’s sort of like that, except rational -- based in legal and ethical concerns -- and not racist.
I understand that, at this point, Kenny and others can express no regrets about the man they just voted for. That would be like saying the used car you bought turned out to be junk. You’ve got to try and see the best in it, no matter what. Understood.
But, if they were truly vigilant citizens who cared about the future, they would spend time looking hard at the issues associated with the man they just elected. These issues are deeply troubling for the democracy, for our institutions of government, and for the foundations on which they are built.