A member of Congress has introduced a bill in the House aimed at preventing President Donald Trump from profiting personally from his role as U.S. president.
The No Taxpayer Revenue to Monetize the Presidency bill would prohibit the use of public funds to pay for events, overnight stays, food or other expenses at hotels owned or operated by a president or his or her relatives.
The bill was introduced by Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon.
"Trump and his family are riddled with conflicts of interests," Blumenauer said in a press release. "Putting a strain on government resources for Trump to hold meetings with U.S. officials at Mar-a-Lago or for the Trump children to travel the world to promote the family business are just more examples. Presidents should not financially benefit from holding the office. No taxpayer money should be spent at Trump hotels. Period."
Aaron Scherb, director of legislative affairs for advocacy group Common Cause, agreed.
"With new conflicts of interest arising almost daily within the current administration, Republican leadership in Congress has failed to follow through on the president's promise to 'drain the swamp,'" he said. "We applaud Congressman Blumenauer's leadership in introducing this legislation to help ensure that the presidency cannot be used to enrich oneself."
Debates about Trump's potential conflicts of interest were revived March 9 after it was revealed that Trump's company had secured preliminary approval for 38 trademarks in China. A further seven applications were rejected.
Democratic Sen. Benjamin Cardin of Maryland called the news an "astonishing development."
He said Trump had been trying, without success, to get trademarks in China for over a decade, but the "floodgates now appear to be open."
Chinese leaders "have come to appreciate the potential return on investments for China in having a positive, personal business relationship," a statement by Cardin suggested, according to The Washington Post.
"We have never before seen a president aggressively pursuing valuable benefits from a foreign government of this kind, and it creates an obvious conflict of interest for him,” Norman Eisen, who served in the Obama administration, told The Washington Post.
Eisen is part of a lawsuit against Trump alleging that his foreign business relations violate the Constitution.
But others dismissed the significance of the announcement.
Scott Palmer, a trademark specialist in the China office of the Sheppard Mullin law firm, said the approval of the trademark applications within 10 months "doesn’t jump out at me as prima facie problematic."
"I represent some very large trademark filers, and we get large numbers of trademarks through to preliminary approval in 10 months fairly regularly now," Palmer added.