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Presidential elector says he will reject Trump, cites foreign payments prohibited by Constitution

A few more like this and Trump has a problem.

Members and guests of New York’s Electoral College, Dec. 17, 2012. CREDIT: AP Photo/Tim Roske
Members and guests of New York’s Electoral College, Dec. 17, 2012. CREDIT: AP Photo/Tim Roske

A Republican member of the Electoral College announced on Monday that he would not support Trump when the group meets later this month.

Chris Suprun, an elector from Texas, signed a pledge at the state Republican convention to support Trump. The pledge, however, is not legally binding.

Suprun says his job is to “elect a president, not a king.”

In an op-ed published in the New York Times, Suprun offered several justifications for his vote. Among them was Trump’s decision to retain ownership over his business empire, which will result in him receiving a stream of payments from foreign governments. As Suprun noted, such payments are prohibited by the Emoluments clause of the Constitution.

Mr. Trump does not understand that the Constitution expressly forbids a president to receive payments or gifts from foreign governments. We have reports that Mr. Trump’s organization has business dealings in Argentina, Bahrain, Taiwan and elsewhere. Mr. Trump could be impeached in his first year given his dismissive responses to financial conflicts of interest

Trump appears set on maintaining ownership over his business while letting his children run day-to-day operations. This is the opposite of a true blind trust. Trump has also shown a willingness to use his position to solicit business from foreign governments. He held a party after election day encouraging diplomats to rent rooms at his new luxury hotel in DC, for example.

Several experts told ThinkProgress that, unless Trump sells his businesses, the electoral college must reject Trump.

“I don’t think the electoral college can vote for someone to become president if he’s going to be in violation of the Constitution on day one and hasn’t assured us he’s not in violation,” said Richard Painter, the Chief Ethics Counsel for George W. Bush.

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Laurence Tribe, one of the nation’s foremost Constitutional experts, agreed. “[T]o vote for Trump in the absence of such complete divestment… would represent an abdication of the solemn duties of the 538 Electors,” Tribe told ThinkProgress.

This was also the position of Norm Eisen, the former Chief Ethics Counsel for Barack Obama. Eisen told ThinkProgress that the proprietors of his DC hotel are “actively seeking emoluments to Trump: payments from foreign governments for use of the hotel.” Eisen has encouraged Trump to sell his companies and set up a true blind trust. Absent that, Eisen said, the electors should reject Trump.

At current count, Trump has 306 pledged electors. That means if 36 electors come to the same conclusion as Suprun, Trump would lack the votes necessary to become president.

Suprun is encouraging his fellow electors to join him. “Electors of conscience can still do the right thing for the good of the country,” Suprun writes. He is not planning on supporting Hillary Clinton. Rather he thinks “electors should unify behind a Republican alternative.”