Lawmakers look into possible Emoluments Clause violations and potential waste of taxpayer funds.
House Democrats are requesting information from the White House, Vice President’s office, the Trump Organization and Secret Service due to possible constitutional violations and waste of taxpayer funds from officials staying at President Trump’s properties while on government business.
On Thursday, the House Oversight and Reform and Judiciary committees sent a series of letters following Vice President Pence and Trump’s recent stays at a Trump hotel in Ireland and the president’s proposal to host the 2020 Group of Seven summit at his Miami resort. They are requesting documents by Sept. 19.
“The committee does not believe that U.S. taxpayer funds should be used to personally enrich President Trump, his family and his companies,” said House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., in a press release.
The House Democrats said they believe Pence’s stay at the Trump hotel in Doonbeg, Ireland, last week could have wasted taxpayer funds since Pence’s meetings in Dublin were 180 miles away. The White House has not said how much Pence’s trip cost taxpayers or benefited the Trump Organization; however, “based on previous investigations by the Government Accountability Office, the bill could be significant,” the Democrats stated. The president’s stay at his Doonbeg property in June cost taxpayers about $3.6 million, according to the House Democrats.
The lawmakers argue the hotel visits could be in violation of the domestic Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which says the president cannot receive payments beyond his official salary during his time in office. The president did not fully divest from his business interests upon inauguration. Cummings wrote that according to Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, Trump suggested that Pence stay at the Ireland property, which is allegedly a “problematic investment for the Trump Organization.” The vice president’s office denied getting such direction.
Pence said on Tuesday his stay at the Trump hotel was approved by the State Department and the hotel was able to “accommodate the unique footprint that comes with our security detail and other personnel.” He added his family roots in Doonbeg were part of the reason he wanted to stay there.
Elizabeth Hempowicz, director of public policy at the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight, said the security argument “doesn’t make a lot of sense” and noted the additional expenses associated with traveling to and from the meetings in Dublin.
As for 2020 Group of Seven Summit, Trump has suggested numerous times that it should be held at Trump National Doral in Miami. The House Democrats stated that they are concerned this would be in violation of the foreign Emoluments Clause, which stipulates that the president cannot receive gifts or other money from foreign entities without the consent of Congress.
“Potential violations of the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution are of grave concern to the committee as it considers whether to recommend articles of impeachment,” House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said.
The two House committees requested a host of documents including: a list of other possible G-7 locations; Justice Department guidance on the Emoluments Clause issued during the Trump era; and itemized costs, revenues generated and communications from Pence and Trump’s trips to Ireland.
Hempowicz said these are “totally legitimate questions” for the committees to be asking and are within their jurisdiction. If there is no wrongdoing, then the request shouldn’t be an issue, she said.
“The Doral and Doonbeg cases are just two of the many examples of the solicitation or receipt of foreign government spending to the benefit of the president’s private financial interests,” the House Judiciary committee wrote. Last month Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, an ethics watchdog, tallied 2,310 conflicts of interest as a result of the president not fully divesting from his businesses.
There are an additional 11 ongoing congressional inquiries into various aspects of Trump’s personal and professional life. There are also 10 federal and eight state and local investigations, according to The New York Times.