Could foreign business interests jeopardise Trump's presidency?

Critics have claimed Donald Trump is violating the US Constitution

Could foreign business interests jeopardise Trump's presidency?

Construction continues at Trump Tower in Punta del Este, Uruguay. Picture by Matilde Campodonico AP/Press Association Images

Ever since the surprise election of Donald Trump as US President last November, some of his opponents have been publicly discussing the possibility of impeachment.

In many ways, history is with President Trump here. No US president has ever been forced from office - Andrew Johnson (1868) and Bill Clinton (1998) were impeached in the House of Representatives, but acquitted by the Senate.

Effectively, the House rules if there is grounds to impeach a president, and a Senate then hosts a formal impeachment trial. This inevitably can be influenced by partisan politics - if a president's party holds Congress (as is the case with the Republicans at the moment), then impeachment becomes even less likely.

Discussions over a potential Trump impeachment have focused on the billionaire's myriad of international business interests - Brazil, China, Egypt, Uruguay, Qatar, the UK, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and indeed Ireland are just some of the countries in which he has interests.

In an article for Time, James C Nelson and John Bonifaz of the 'Free Speech For People' group suggest: "It has been widely acknowledged that, upon swearing the Oath of Office, President Donald Trump would be in direct violation of the foreign-emoluments clause of the US Constitution."

The authors argue that this "unprecedented corruption of the Oval Office and this threat to our Constitution and our democracy, we believe Congress must move forward now with an impeachment investigation of President Trump".

Trump himself has been unapologetic over the issue, claiming the law is on his side and the US President "can't have a conflict of interest".

He has made efforts to hand control of his business empire over to a trust controlled by his children - although a US ethics watchdog has said the arrangement is far from a 'blind trust'.

"Serious ambiguity"

Larry Donnelly - attorney and lecturer in law at NUI Galway - spoke to Pat Kenny about these business interests, and whether or not they could threaten Trump's presidency.

He raised concerns over some of the campaigns Mr Bonifaz has run before, which he suggested were 'pretty comprehensively rebuked'. But bearing that in mind, does the argument hold water?

Larry observed: "The key point here is there is disagreement between legal scholars on this provision. The bottom line is - do day-to-day financial transactions actually violate the applicable clause?

"These arrangements in Trump Tower...these came into being long before anybody thought he would be President of the United States. So there's a real legitimate debate and serious ambiguity here."

However, he added he cannot figure out why President Trump does not divest himself or enter a blind trust to remove these concerns.

Ultimately, Larry believes an impeachment case is "a lot stronger argument than the one used against Bill Clinton - but political arguments would come to the fore".

He suggested: "To be impeached, this would have to make its way through the Congress and then through two-thirds of the Senate - and that's a long road to home."