- House Oversight Committee Democrats sent a letter to the committee’s Republican chairman on Thursday.
- They asked him to subpoena the Trump Organisation for documents detailing the organisation’s management of foreign government payments since President Donald Trump took office.
- Trump’s attorney, Sheri Dillon, told reporters last year that Trump had decided to voluntarily donate all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotel to the US Treasury Department.
- Documents memorializing the agreement were never provided to Congress, according to the Democrats, apart from “a glossy, eight-page pamphlet” released in May 2017 that “made clear the Trump Organisation would not attempt to identify all foreign emoluments prohibited by the Constitution.”
One year after then-President-elect Donald Trump made it clear he would not fully divest himself from his vast business empire, Democrats are calling on the chairman of the House Oversight Committee to subpoena the Trump Organisation for documents detailing the foreign government payments that it received in 2017.
“One year ago today, on January 11, 2017, President-elect Trump held a press conference to announce that he would not liquidate his assets or establish an independent blind trust,” the House Oversight Democrats wrote in a letter to the Republican chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy.
Trump’s attorney, Sheri Dillon, told reporters last year that while the US Constitution did “not require” Trump “to do anything here,” Trump had decided to “do more than what the Constitution requires” and voluntarily donate all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotel to the US treasury.
“All of Mr. Trump’s investments in the Trump Organisation have been, or will be, conveyed to a trust prior to January 20,” or Inauguration Day, Dillon said.
She added that the trust – set up with help from Fred Fielding, a former White House counsel to Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush – would hold only liquid assets such as cash and business operating assets, and would require Trump to relinquish leadership and management of his company to his sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka would also have no further involvement with, or management authority over, the Trump Organisation, Dillon said.
Democrats say the documents were never provided to Congress
Documents memorializing the agreement were never provided to Congress, according to the Democrats, apart from “a glossy, eight-page pamphlet” released in May 2017 that “made clear the Trump Organisation would not attempt to identify all foreign emoluments prohibited by the Constitution.”
The Trump Organisation operates a variety of golf resorts and hotels around the world, many of which are visited by foreign government officials and diplomats. The pamphlet said that “to fully and completely identify all patronage at our properties by customer type is impractical in the service industry,” and would “impede upon personal privacy and diminish the guest experience of our brand.”
Trump has said he sold all his stocks in his organisation last year, but many ethics experts had urged him to fully divest himself from or set up a blind trust for his assets. Dillon said Trump opted against these steps because they were not realistic.
Those steps would “only exacerbate conflicts of interests,” Dillon said, adding, “Selling his brand means he would be entitled to royalties from it, and whatever price was paid for it would be subject to criticism and scrutiny” over whether it was inflated to curry favour with the president.
“The president-elect should not be expected to destroy the company he built,” Dillon said.
Questions about the emoluments clause of the Constitution
The legal watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a lawsuit last year claiming that, because Trump had not fully divested from his businesses, he was receiving “cash and favours from foreign governments, through guests and events at his hotels, leases in his buildings, and valuable real estate deals abroad.”
A judge dismissed the case in December, concluding that the court does not have subject-matter jurisdiction over the case and that CREW’s claims do not fall within the interests of the emoluments clause – a constitutional provision that restricts government officials from receiving gifts, profits, offices or titles from foreign governments without Congress’ consent.
CREW plans to appeal. But Democratic lawmakers, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, said the judge’s decision to judge the emoluments question using the “political process” was further evidence that Congress should get involved.
The Democrats called on Gowdy to issue a subpoena to the Trump Organisation for documents referring or 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 US treasury”; how details about the profits donated to the Treasury are “tracked or publicly reported”; and whether the Trump Organisation, Trump, or his trust “plans to claim donations to the US treasury as a gift for tax deduction purposes.”
The Democrats also want documents “showing which specific entities within the Trump Organisation” have donated, or plan to donate, the profits they have received from foreign government entities.
Read the full letter below:
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