“Why should I lose lots of opportunities?”

The emoluments case is going ahead.

A U.S. district court judge has now ruled that discovery can proceed in a lawsuit that the attorneys general of Maryland and the District have filed against Trump. The president had tried to stall the lawsuit, but failed.

This discovery process will now entail an effort to peer into the finances of the Trump International Hotel in D.C., which has become a magnet for spending by foreign governments and dignitaries. The lawsuit alleges that by profiting in this way, Trump — who declined to divest himself of his business holdings as president — is violating the emoluments clause, which bars federal officials from taking such benefits from foreign (or state) governments unless Congress okays it.

To grasp the real significance of this, we need to look at why the court has allowed this lawsuit to move forward. In July, the court denied Trump’s motion to dismiss the suit. Trump had tried to define “emoluments” very narrowly. But the judge instead accepted the plaintiffs’ argument that they constitute “profit,” “gain” or “advantage,” i.e., the sort of profits that go to Trump’s businesses.

Importantly, in so doing, that ruling affirmed the idea that the goal of the constitutional ban on emoluments is to remove any doubt that a federal official is letting his private profiteering influence his decision-making on behalf of the public. The framers “made it simple,” the ruling said. “Ban the offerings altogether.”

The thing about Trump, of course, is that he couldn’t possibly care less about that. The money is almost the whole point for him. I say almost because there’s also the narcissistic reward, but the money is key. Being president is a golden opportunity to make big bucks, and any ideas about putting the country ahead of his personal profit might as well be the tooth fairy as far as Donnie Two-scoops is concerned.

[T]his case goes directly to the core of Trump’s blending of private and public interests, which this presidency has taken to an extraordinary degree. For instance, we have no clear idea of just how much money his family made off the corporate tax cuts he signed. Meanwhile, in recent days, questions have mounted on other fronts. We cannot dismiss the possibility that Trump’s refusal to hold the Saudi crown prince responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is related to his financial entanglements with the Saudis, something that Democrats will separately be investigating.

I’d call it the likelihood rather than the possibility.

Meanwhile, in this context, it’s worth looking back at Trump’s response to Cohen’s admissions. Trump blithely conceded that he pursued the Moscow project, and said there was nothing wrong with it:

“I was running my business while I was campaigning,” Trump told reporters Thursday. “There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case I would have gone back into the business and why should I lose lots of opportunities?”

That. That idiot corrupt question has been haunting me since last week. Why should you lose lots of opportunities, you greedy sack of shit? Because you’re supposed to be working for the country now, not for your bank account. Because a president needs to be free from direct financial motivations, that’s why.

(It would be nice if they could also be required to be free of indirect financial motivations too. I think both Clintons were way too keen to make rich and powerful friends while they were in the White House, but that’s a kind of corruption that would probably be impossible to legislate out.)

For Trump, it’s simply not part of the equation that American voters might have been entitled to know that he was pursuing a lucrative real estate deal that required Kremlin approval, even as he campaigned on a promise to pursue better relations with Russia — and even as he publicly absolved Russia of the direct assault it was wagingon our democracy on his behalf. Of course, Trump was aware that revealing this would be bad for him, so he lied to keep it concealed.

But steady, insistent inquiry by news organizations and law enforcement — and, now, via the advancing of the emoluments lawsuit — is cracking the fortress. And the cracks are only likely to widen.

Here’s hoping.

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