Constitutional restrictions on foreign gifts don’t apply to the president
Does the Foreign Gifts Clause and its office under the United States language apply to the presidency? There are three good reasons to believe that it does not.
First, the Constitution does not rely on generalized “office” language to refer to the president and vice president. Where a provision is meant to apply to such apex or elected officials, the provision expressly names those officials. For example, the Impeachment Clause applies to the “president, vice president and all civil officers of the United States…”
Second, the Foreign Gifts Clause was given an early construction by George Washington. While he was president, Washington received two gifts from officials of the French government — including a diplomatic gift from the French ambassador. Washington accepted the gifts, he kept the gifts, and he never asked for or received congressional consent. There is no record of any anti-administration congressman or senator criticizing the president’s conduct. As Professor Akhil Amar has reminded us, the precedents set by President Washington and his administration deserve special deference in regard to both foreign affairs and presidential etiquette.