The Cambridge City Council knows it can't impeach a president. But the legislative body across the Charles River from Boston still wants to make its voice heard, and serve as a leader along the way.
The Council on Monday passed a resolution 7-1, with one abstention, calling on its local representatives in Congress to begin an investigation into possible impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. It asked the Democratic representatives, Michael Capuano and Katherine Clark, to probe whether Trump violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. That clause prohibits a president from benefiting financially from his position — excluding a salary — or from accepting money from foreign governments.
Marc McGovern, vice mayor of Cambridge and also a member of the Council, co-sponsored the order along with Councillors Leland Cheung and Jan Devereux. McGovern noted that Cambridge Area Stronger Together, a human rights and social justice group, first brought the issue to their attention.
“We think there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that Mr. Trump is in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution,” McGovern said. “In part, the clause says that a sitting president cannot benefit financially, receive gifts from or receive payments from foreign or domestic government.”
This isn’t the first time questions around Trump and the Emoluments Clause have been brought up. McGovern specifically pointed to foreign governments renting rooms at Trump International Hotel in Washington as an example of a violation.
McGovern did note that a majority in Cambridge voted for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, but assured that this was not just “sour grapes.”
“I think everyone, regardless of party, should be concerned that the president of the United States might have a conflict of interest due to his business portfolio,” he said. “It’s not a good thing whether you’re Republican or Democrat. It's a national security issue.”
Before his inauguration, Trump said he would maintain ownership of his empire but hand off control to his sons, a move that didn’t satisfy those concerned about conflicts of interest.
Can one City Council have an effect in this fight? McGovern thinks so, but he knows it needs to get other cities and towns on board. Other municipal governments have already have started this effort, including those in Richmond, Virginia; Berkeley, California; and Alameda, California, according to ABC News.
“Cambridge isn’t afraid to take the lead on things,” McGovern said, calling Cambridge one of the most progressive cities in the country. “If we’re silent and we’re not willing to stand up and say, ‘This isn’t right,’ then other cities and towns aren’t going to either.”