GAO headquarters in Washington.

GAO headquarters in Washington. Mark Van Scyoc/

GAO to Review Ethics, Funding of Trump Transition

Auditors will also look at the transition’s contacts with foreign leaders.

The federal government’s internal auditor is commencing a review of President Trump’s transition into office, examining potential conflicts of interest, contacts with foreign government and funding sources.

The Government Accountability Office is launching the review after Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., requested it. GAO will determine how the General Services Administration managed the transition and its funding mechanisms, what Trump’s transition spent those funds on and how much private funding it collected. The auditors will also probe the Office of Government Ethics to evaluate what information it made available to the transition team and to what extent Trump’s associates took advantage of OGE’s offerings versus the previous two transitions.

GAO will further examine what services Trump, Vice President Pence and other transition team members had available to them to communicate with heads of foreign governments. The agency will look at the extent to which Trump officials used those services and how that compares with the Obama and George W. Bush efforts. GAO will provide general clarity on what laws and federal entities guide the transition before and after inauguration and “what ethics-related provisions apply to those involved.”

In a November request for the audit, Warren and Cummings said they were concerned over reports of “disarray” and chaos within the transition, as well as potential conflicts of interest.

“All Americans share an interest in a smooth presidential transition, and federal laws authorize the use of taxpayer funds for that purpose,” they wrote. “But Mr. Trump's apparent conflicts of interest—and his behavior during the campaign and after his election—raise questions about the use of taxpayer funds during the transition, and about the decisions made during the transition that will affect federal government policies under the Trump administration.”

President Obama signed two bills, the 2010 Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act and the 2015 Edward “Ted” Kaufman and Michael Leavitt Presidential Transitions Improvements Act, to smooth the transition process and put a career GSA official in charge of it. Congress allocated $13.3 million to provide office space, equipment and other administrative support to Trump and Hillary Clinton before the election and an additional $9.5 million to then President-elect Trump after the election.

GAO will review those laws and interview officials at GSA and OGE. It will also examine the agreements between GSA and the transition team and review all documentation related to transition spending. The auditors will work with the State Department to review the transition team’s procedures for contacting foreign officials. GAO expects to issue a draft report by June. 

Image via Mark Van Scyoc/