Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Elijah Cummings are concerned about conflicts of interest, security risks.
Two prominent Democratic lawmakers have asked the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office to review what they term as the “chaotic” transition effort of President-elect Donald Trump.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., on Wednesday wrote to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro with the request, citing issues of “conflicts of interest related to business holdings of Mr. Trump and his family, potential violations of protocol and national security concerns related to Mr. Trump's communications with foreign leaders, and transparency related to the use of taxpayer funds in the transition.”
Cummings, who is ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, had earlier asked that panel’s chairman, Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, to investigate Trump’s handling of the question of whether to put the billionaire’s vast business holdings in a blind trust. That request drew no response, a committee staffer told Government Executive.
In the letter to GAO, the lawmakers wrote that “there have been several reports indicating that Mr. Trump or his family have not drawn a clear line between his presidency and his company. “At this point, it is not clear if the line between Mr. Trump's presidency and his and business ventures is blurred or entirely nonexistent.”
Their national security concerns stem from the fact that Trump has taken phone calls from foreign leaders on his personal cell phone—the number reportedly supplied to an Australian leader by a golfing friend—without a secure line and State Department briefings.
They also warn of conflicts of interest. “We learned that despite claims that Mr. Trump is not interested in his business anymore, the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C. hosted “about 100 foreign diplomats, from Brazil to Turkey . . . to sip Trump-branded champagne, dine on sliders and hear a sales pitch about the U.S. President-elect's newest hotel,” they wrote. “Diplomats told the press that `spending money at Trump's hotel is an easy, friendly gesture to the new president.’"
Noting that $9.5 million in federal funding has been allocated to the General Services Administration to support the transition, the Democrats expressed concern that decisions made during the transition will “affect federal government policies under the Trump administration.”
Specifically, they asked GAO to explore such questions as:
“Has the Trump transition used taxpayer dollars efficiently and effectively? Have funds from the transition or associated with the transition (such as reimbursements from the Secret Service) gone to companies owned by Mr. Trump? If so, how much was the total amount paid to Mr. Trump's business entities? Have the payments been fair and reasonable?”
The letter ends with a broad, politically dicey query for GAO to answer:
“Has the ‘disarray’ within Mr. Trump's transition team affected his ability to effectively serve the American public beginning on January 20, 2017?”