Matt Fuller, Congressional Reporter, The Huffington Post
WASHINGTON ― Democrats on the House Oversight Committee on Monday asked the committee’s chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), to look into President-elect Donald Trump’s financial entanglements and make sure he’s not breaking the law.
“The scope of Mr. Trump’s conflicts of interest around the world is unprecedented,” the 17 Democrats on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee wrote. “Over the past two weeks, new revelations have raised serious concerns about the intermingling of Mr. Trump’s businesses and his responsibilities as president.”
Trump’s potential conflicts of interest are staggering, with business interests across the globe and no clear firewall between those businesses and the office of the presidency. Trump had said previously that he would enter into a blind trust, which would require him to sell many of his businesses and be unaware of his holdings, but he’s backed away from those promises. Trump also said he would step away from his dealings and have his children run day-to-day operations. But several of Trump’s children are intimately involved in his political operation ― Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr. are all on the presidential transition team ― and simply handing over the businesses to his children wouldn’t disassociate Trump from his enterprises. He still knows what businesses he owns.
Trump’s potential conflicts of interest have already raised serious questions about his actions and the actions of foreign governments. Just three days after a phone call between Trump and Argentine President Mauricio Macri, the development company building the $100 million Trump Tower in Buenos Aires said construction could begin as soon as June 2017.
Trump also owes a foreign bank over $300 million, and has foreign diplomats booking hotel reservations at his hotel in Washington, D.C., so they can curry favor with the president.
Trump himself seems unconcerned about the potential conflicts of interest. In an interview with The New York Times last week, the president-elect offered the Nixonian thought that “the president can’t have a conflict of interest.”
As the letter noted, no one truly has a handle on Trump’s finances, since his exorbitant wealth has allowed him to list assets in overly broad financial disclosure categories, and he’s kept his tax returns private.
“Mr. Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns has already demonstrated a troubling lack of transparency and accountability, making it even more critical that the Committee conduct rigorous oversight right away ― before he is sworn in as President,” the letter said.
The ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), asked for a congressional probe of Trump’s potential conflicts of interest two weeks ago. Democrats say they have yet to hear back from Chaffetz. A Huffington Post request for comment from an Oversight spokeswoman on Monday was not returned.
Chaffetz had promised a thorough investigation of Hillary Clinton when she was expected to win the presidency. Even after the election, Chaffetz said he still wanted to investigate Clinton’s handling of a private email server to determine if she had broken the law. (An FBI investigation determined that she had not.)
“You acted with unprecedented urgency to hold ‘emergency’ hearings and issue multiple unilateral subpoenas to investigate Secretary Clinton before the election,” the letter said Monday. “We ask that you show the same sense of urgency now.”
Chaffetz promised rigorous oversight in August, saying he didn’t care which party won the White House. “My job is not to be a cheerleader for the president. My job is to hold them accountable and to provide that oversight,” he said then.
“If you’re going to run and try to become the president of the United States, you’re going to have to open up your kimono and show everything, your tax returns, your medical records,” he went on. “You are… just going to have to do that.”