Marking the year anniversary of Donald Trump’s press conference as president-elect in which he laid out plans to put his business empire in a family trust, Democrats on the House oversight panel on Thursday demanded that the committee chairman subpoena documents from the Trump Organization.
In a letter and accompanying video addressed to Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., the 17 Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said, “Over the past year, President Trump and his attorneys have stalled virtually any credible oversight, and unfortunately our committee has done nothing to push back on these efforts, press for answers to these questions, or obtain documents that would assist our efforts to carry out our duties under the Constitution to act as an independent check on the president and the executive branch.”
In asking Gowdy to sign off on a subpoena, the Democrats led by ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said, “There is no longer any reason for the Trump Organization to continue defying our committee’s request for documents and a briefing.”
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Lawsuits by lawmakers, state attorneys general, transparency nonprofits and restauranteurs competing against the Trump International Hotel in Washington have charged that the president maintaining his business holdings while in office violates the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause that restricts accepting gifts from foreigners. The General Services Administration declined to challenge Trump’s continued stake in the hotel he leases from the federal government, and the lawsuits have not succeeded so far.
Trump’s private attorney Sheri Dillon, a partner at the Washington office of Morgan Lewis, said at the 2017 presser that “the Constitution does not require President-elect Trump to do anything here. But, just like with conflicts of interest, he wants to do more than what the Constitution requires.”
She spoke in front of vast stacks of what appeared to be legal documents related to disclosures of Trump’s holdings, but none were ever turned over to Congress after a request. The Trump team later confirmed to inquiring reporters that the stacks “were visual aids.”
Last April, then-Oversight chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who since retired, agreed to request documents from the Trump Organization. But what was received, the Democrats noted in their letter, was an eight-page pamphlet and an email. The Trump hoteliers argued that “putting forth a policy that requires all guests to identify themselves would impede upon personal privacy and diminish the guest experience of our brand.” They said the Trump Organization would not comply with the request until 2018.
The Democrats’ video showcases familiar criticisms of Trump’s ethics decisions by former Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub, former Obama administration White House counsel Norm Eisen and former George W. Bush administration ethics adviser Richard Painter, all of whom have appeared frequently on CNN and MSNBC.
The Democrats are asking that Gowdy sign a subpoena demanding all documents relating to the process by which payments from foreign governments or foreign government-owned entities are identified; the process or formula by which the profits from such payments are calculated; the manner in which those profits are donated to the U.S. Treasury; how details about the amount of profits identified and donated to the Treasury are tracked or publicly reported; and whether the Trump Organization, President Trump, or his trust plans to claim donations to the U.S. Treasury as a gift for tax deduction purposes.
In addition, they seek documents showing which specific entities within the Trump Organization have donated or will be donating profits derived from foreign government sources.
“If you decline to issue this subpoena,” their letter said, “then we respectfully request that you allow all committee members to vote on a motion for a subpoena at our next regularly scheduled business meeting.”
Gowdy’s staff did not respond to Government Executive’s requests for comment by publication time.