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George Conway Offers Rare Defense Of Trump On Emoluments Charge

Newsweek logo Newsweek 5/2/2019 Jessica Kwong
a man wearing a suit and tie © Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Lawyer George Conway, a persistent Donald Trump critic and husband of Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, on Thursday admitted that he and presumably his wife owned an apartment in Trump World Tower after a report suggested that Trump used the property to violate the Constitution's emoluments clause.

George Conway shared a story by Reuters alleging, based on documents and sources, that the State Department let at least seven foreign governments lease Trump World Tower luxury condos in 2017 without congressional approval, which could violate the emoluments clause prohibiting American officials from taking payments or gifts from foreign governments not OK'd by Congress.

"Obviously I carry no brief for our Sleazebag-in-Chief," George Conway tweeted, referring to Trump, "But we used to own an apartment in this building, which is across First Avenue from the U.N."

The lawyer continued that "this article seems to suggest that if we still owned that apartment, and privately negotiated a lease with the French mission, ... our common charges would become a foreign emolument. If that’s true, why wouldn’t the same argument apply to the common charges paid by a translator who owned a unit in the building, got a job at the Belgian mission, and then used her salary to pay her common charges?"

"The theory proves too much," George Conway concluded. "Trump is bad, but his badness shouldn’t be used to justify bad legal arguments—on either side."

Related video: What you need to know about Trump and the emoluments clause (The Washington Post)

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George Conway has been married to Kellyanne Conway since 2001. Their relationship has been put under a spotlight since George Conway regularly attacks Trump on Twitter, while his wife defends Trump with equal fervor and remains one of the longest serving, high-rank officials in the White House. George Conway's reference to the emoluments charge as "bad legal arguments" was, for him, an unusual defense of Trump.

Reuters reported that the governments of Iraq, Kuwait, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Thailand and the European Union were approved to lease eight units combined at Trump World Tower, which is not the same as Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue where the president has a home. Reuters did not receive comments from the State Department, White House, or Trump Organization, and the Justice Department declined to comment. The entities did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Newsweek on Thursday.

Trump’s attorneys have previously made the case that the Constitution requires the him to get approval from Congress for foreign emoluments offered to him only if they relate to his capacity as president.

But a former White House ethics chief was of a different opinion on the matter than George Conway.

"This is yet another blatant violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution," tweeted Richard Painter, who was a chief ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush. "Unless Congress impeaches him, he’ll do anything he wants."

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