House Democrats sent an in-your-face, challenging letter today to Rep. Trey Gowdy, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, requesting in the strongest terms that a subpoena be served on The Trump Organization (TTO) and that a real investigation be launched into President Trump’s failure to meet the requirements of the constitutional emoluments clause.
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This comes on the one year anniversary of a press conference where Trump’s attorney said that while the president would not divest his outside business assets or put them into a blind trust as all of his predecessors had done, he still “wants to do more than the constitution requires.”
To do that Trump’s lawyer, standing alongside great piles of manila folders, promised he would donate all profits from foreign government payments to his hotels to the United States Treasury.
The manila folders were later shown to be blanks, put there as “visual props,” and all the promises to provide documents turned out to be fake as well.
Instead, states today’s letter, “over the past year, President Trump and his attornies have stalled virtually any credible oversight,” and the Republican-strangled Oversight Committee has failed in its duty to “act as an independent check on the president and the executive branch.”
— House OversightDems (@OversightDems) January 11, 2018
Last April, the Committee’s chairman at the time, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, finally sent a letter to TTO directly requesting documents showing how the Trump hotels would track how much money was owed to the Treasury Department and a briefing on the process.
The letter calls TTO response “insultingly incomplete.”
TTO responded that identifying all guests is “impractical” and asking guests to identify themselves would “impede upon personal privacy and diminish the guest experience of our brand.”
The TTO also said it was premature and they would not respond to any of the requests until at least 2018.
— The Hill (@thehill) January 11, 2018
In May 2017, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the committee, wrote to TTO to note they had not provided any of the documents the committee requested and adding a warning: “Complying with the United States Constitution is not an optional exercise, but a requirement for serving as our nation’s president.”
“Now that a year has passed,” adds the letter, “there is no longer any reason for the Trump Organization to continue defying our request.”
The letter calls on Gowdy to issue the subpoena or to allow all of the committee’s members to vote on issuing a subpoena at the next regular meeting.
Trey “Benghazi” Gowdy has proven over the past year to be a hyper-partisan Republican and a strong backer of anything Trump wants or does, so the chances of his cooperation are probably fairly slim.
However, this does put on the record how the president and TTO have failed to meet the constitutional requirements or to provide the requested information or sent any money to the Treasury as was promised a year ago.
If in November, the Democrats retake the House and have majority control of the committee once again, this issue and this letter will become much more meaningful in terms of investigating how Trump has improperly and illegally profited off being president.
Trump’s failure to keep his promise to donate money from foreign customers of his hotels is likely only the tip of a very large iceberg in terms of the president’s failure to act in an ethical way by keeping his personal business interests separate from his government duties.
Even Trump’s choice to constantly travel to TTO-owned properties to vacation, play golf or hold meetings with world leaders could prove a pattern of unacceptable self-interest.
The Republican enablers, for now, may be able to forestall any legal consequences – civil or criminal – but that could all change, so the failure of the hotels to do as the president promised is foolish as well as illegal.