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Democrat's bill to criminalize Trump business activities

US President Donald Trump walks to Marine One as he departs the White House in Washington, DC, July 20, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

A Democratic Representative from the state of California has proposed a bill that would make it a criminal offense for President Donald Trump and his family to "enrich themselves by using his presidency."

Congressman Eric Swalwell announced the bill on Monday. It aims to put restrictions on the kind of business and financial transactions a sitting president is allowed to do.

Swalwell said in a statement that the new bill, titled Prevent Corrupting Foreign Influence Act, would “significantly improve upon the existing ban on America’s highest elected officials receiving financial benefits from foreign powers.”

The proposed bill looks to expand prohibitions in the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which stipulates that presidents cannot receive gifts or payments from foreign officials without Congress’ approval.

“It’s long past time that Congress takes a meaningful stand against any effort to buy and sell our White House,” Swalwell said. “America’s Presidents and Vice Presidents must not enrich themselves from foreign sources – they should hold themselves to a higher standard, and if they won’t, it’s our job to do it for them.”

The legislation would make it a criminal offense for Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, their families or “companies in which they have at least half-ownership” to accept anything of value from a foreign power or from a company that is more than 50 percent controlled by a foreign power, according to the statement.

Eric Swalwell (D-CA) speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on April 5, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Swalwell said he proposed the bill in response to Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC) of China’s $500-million loan to an Indonesian development project, in which the Trump organization is involved. Trump faced harsh criticism after he softened sanctions on Chinese firm ZTE around that time.

“Unlike other Presidents, Donald Trump has failed to distance himself from his private business interests while serving our nation, and so he and his family are getting richer from Trump companies that receive money and benefits from foreign powers,” Swalwell said in the statement.

“Americans deserve to know that their President is working for them and only them, not having his own wallet fattened by foreign interests.”

If passed, the bill would not criminalize past financial arrangements and is only meant to punish future transactions, according to the statement.

Trump has already come under a furious backlash from political opponents and ethics experts for placing his children in positions of power.

Trump's daughter, Ivanka, worked for her billionaire-father's company before he was elected president and is now an unpaid White House adviser. She has been accused in the US of benefiting from nepotism.

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has also been appointed as a senior White House adviser by the president.

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