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‘For-profit presidency on full display’: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s mention of stay at Trump Tower raises fresh alarm over emoluments violations

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President Volodymyr Zelensky AFP / GENYA SAVILOV

“This is what we’ve been warning about for years: proof directly from the White House that a foreign leader is trying to get in Trump’s good graces by telling him he stayed at his hotel.”

The memorandum released Wednesday detailing President Donald Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky included a comment from Zelensky that anti-corruption watchdogs called clear evidence of the constitutional violations they’ve warned about since before Trump took office.

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“This kind of casual corruption is an inevitable outgrowth of Trump’s refusal to divest his business holdings and his everyday violation of Constitution’s anti-corruption clause.”
—Robert Weissman, Public Citizen

While most media reports on Wednesday focused on Trump’s request that Zelensky “do us a favor” after the Ukrainian leader raised the question of buying U.S. military equipment, groups including Public Citizen and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) pointed out a less remarked-upon comment from Zelensky that the “last time I traveled to the United States, I stayed in New York near Central Park and I stayed at the Trump Tower.”

Zelensky made the remark after the two discussed coordinating an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden with Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General William Barr.

The brief mention of Zelensky’s patronage at Trump’s property revealed “the for-profit presidency on full display,” Public Citizen tweeted.

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Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, pointed out ther casual nature of the exchange about Zelensky’s stay at Trump Tower.

“The comment was natural and exactly the sort of remark that new acquaintances make to each other when they are getting to know one another other,” Weissman said in a statement. “It was also exactly the sort of remark that a person would make to Trump—a man notably susceptible to flattery and sycophantism—if he or she were trying to get in his good graces.”

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“This kind of casual corruption is an inevitable outgrowth of Trump’s refusal to divest his business holdings and his everyday violation of Constitution’s anti-corruption clause,” Weissman added.

As Common Dreams has reported, critics have warned repeatedly that Trump’s continued involvement in his business empire, the Trump Organization, has led to flagrant violations of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.

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The clause prohibits the president from receiving any gifts or payments from foreign or state leaders without congressional approval.

Trump’s refusal to divest from his business when he took office opened the possibility that he could financially benefit when leaders like Zelensky stay at his properties, leaving the U.S. government owing a favor to foreign entities.

“This is what we’ve been warning about for years: proof directly from the White House that a foreign leader is trying to get in Trump’s good graces by telling him he stayed at his hotel,” tweeted CREW.

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In a pending lawsuit against the president, which was reopened by a federal court earlier this month, CREW argues Trump’s violation of the Emoluments Clause has led to unethical financial entanglements with the governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other countries that send delegations to stay in the president’s hotels.

The transcript revealed that Zelensky may have sought to win favorable treatment from Trump as well, Public Citizen communications director Angela Bradbery wrote Wednesday.

“This isn’t normal,” Bradbery tweeted.

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Some reporters took note of new evidence that the president violated the Emoluments Clause within Trump’s conversation with Zelensky.

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2020 Election

WATCH LIVE: Donald Trump clashes with Joe Biden in final 2020 debate

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The final 2020 presidential debate is scheduled to take place on Thursday in Nashville.

The debate is being moderated by NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker.

The final debate is occurring after President Donald Trump refused to participate in the second debate against former Vice President Joe Biden.

"For this final debate, the coronavirus safety plan onstage is similar to the first one: It will be held in person, but the candidates will be far apart and not shake hands," The Washington Post reported Thursday. "The audience will again be smaller than in debates in years past. The first debate had 80 to 90 people in the audience, all of whom were supposed to be tested for the novel coronavirus. The attendees were also supposed to wear masks, per the advice of the Cleveland Clinic, which was the official partner of the debate. But members of the Trump family took off their masks after arriving, prompting widespread criticism, including from moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News, and new rules say that any audience member without a mask will be asked to leave."

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2020 Election

‘Rudy is so bad at this’: Giuliani mocked after photo of alleged ‘Hunter Biden text’ is linked to Russia

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Rudy Giuliani, an attorney for President Donald Trump, faced mockery on Thursday after a photograph suggested that evidence connected to a smear of Hunter Biden originated in Russia.

On Thursday morning, Fox News correspondent Mike Emanuel claimed that the network had confirmed that Hunter Biden was the author of a text message in which someone complains about a business deal.

Hunter Biden text exchange from June 2017 obtained by #FoxNews ranting to his business partners about not wanting to "sign over my family's brand", "the keys to my family's only asset" to Tony Bobulinski. Warning: foul language. pic.twitter.com/8gn1KuVOBu

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2020 Election

Trump advisors admit he made a huge mistake — and needs a ‘breakout’ debate performance: report

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On Thursday, CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta reported that campaign advisers to President Donald Trump regret allowing the president to cancel the second debate.

According to Acosta, these advisers believe it's essential for Trump to have a "breakout" moment on stage at the last round.

NEW: Campaign advisers tell our Chief WH Correspondent Jim @Acosta they now believe it was a huge mistake for Trump to cancel last week’s debate, making a breakout moment a must tonight to shake up the race. One adviser said Trump needs a “leadership moment...” #CNN

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