Engel to colleagues: Educate foreign officials on emoluments clause


It's no secret the U.S. House is knee-deep in an inquiry on whether it should impeach President Donald Trump. But what many might now know is that some of the conversations congressional members and their staffs are having with their foreign counterparts is a bit educational, too.

U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel — chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee — is in Jordan this weekend with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional delegates, but Engel's chief of staff Bill Weitz visited the monthly meeting of Northwest Bronx Indivisible at the Riverdale-Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture meeting house on Sunday, to provide a perspective from one of the frontline congressmen on the impeachment question.

The key to the process established by congressional investigators in these closed-door hearings with different members of Trump's cabinet is laser focused, Weitz said. That means most of what's discussed will be Ukraine, and Trump's alleged withholding of miliary aid to the country with the hopes of leaders of that European country embarking on an investigation of Hunter Biden, son of former vice president — and potential 2020 presidential contender — Joe Biden.

"In terms of the inquiry, the focus is on Ukraine, but that doesn't mean that all the other stuff that is going on is  not being investigated or not being looked into," Weitz told the small crowd of political activists. "Chairman  Engel has told staff on the committee that when they are meeting with foreign dignitaries and foreign leaders to remind them what the emoluments clause says, which is a pretty strong action, saying, 'By the way, you can't buy stuff from Trump.' We are warning people across the world  about that kind of stuff."

The U.S. Constitution's emoluments clause is meant to prevent foreign influence over U.S. officials and domestic policy, whether through money, gifts, or anything else considerable valuable, including information. Some in Washington — especially Democrats — have accused Trump of violating the emoluments clause through his phone call with Ukranian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, seeking what they say was information intended to help Trump in the 2020 campaign. 

To read more about what Weitz and Project on Government Oversight executive director Danielle Brian had to say to the group, pick up the Oct. 24 edition of The Riverdale Press.