Days after a lawsuit accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution’s “emoluments clause” added more plaintiffs, the House Oversight Committee is requesting the Trump Organization turn over documents detailing what processes Trump’s business has implemented, if any, to make sure the president isn’t profiting from foreign governments who want to curry favor with him.
On Friday, the Oversight Committee sent a letter to Sheri Dillon — the lawyer who detailed how Trump planned to avoid conflicts of interest during a January 11 news conference — asking her to detail how that plan is being implemented by no later than May 12.
The Constitution prohibits presidents from accepting “any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.” But the Trump International Hotel has taken money from foreign governments to rent out event spaces and rooms at the hotel. And since Trump has broken presidential precedent by refusing to divest from his business interests, he stands to personally profit.
The problem was captured succinctly in this recent tweet from the Georgian ambassador that effectively served as an advertisement for the Trump International.
— Kaha Imnadze (@kahaimnadze) April 6, 2017
The Oversight Committee’s letter actually cites a story first broken by ThinkProgress about how the Embassy of Kuwait changed plans shortly after the election and moved a February event from the Four Seasons to the Trump International. During the January 11 news conference, Dillon said that Trump’s plan to circumvent the constitutional problem posed by deals of that sort is “to voluntarily donate all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotel to the United States Treasury.”
But as of March 17, the Trump Organization hadn’t donated any foreign profits, according to USA Today.
“The Trump Organization now says it plans to make the donation after the end of the calendar year,” USA Today reported, but Trump’s business “would not provide a copy of the policy or otherwise explain how Trump hotels and similar businesses will separate profits from foreign governments’ rentals of rooms and suites, conference rooms and banquet facilities, or payments for other services at its hotels, and deliver the money to the Treasury as the president and his lawyers spelled out in a nationally televised January news conference.”
Oversight Committee members want proof that Trump actually plans to do what he promised.
“[D]etails of the plan to donate profits derived from foreign government payments… are still unclear,” their letter says. “Meanwhile, recent news accounts [about the Kuwait event] have reported that the Trump Organization may have received payments from foreign government sources since President Trump’s inauguration.”
The Oversight Committee specifically asks Dillon for documents detailing how payments from foreign governments are identified, how they’re calculated, the manner in which they’re donated to the Treasury, how those donations are tracked and reported, whether Trump or his business plan to claim them as a gift for tax deduction purposes, and which entities within the Trump Organization will be responsible for making sure all that happens.
— Oversight Committee (@GOPoversight) April 21, 2017
The letter is signed by House Oversight Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). Chaffetz, who has thus far been extremely reluctant to conduct any oversight of Trump whatsoever, announced earlier this week that he will not seek another term in Congress.
Spending money at Trump’s hotels isn’t the only ways foreign agents could line the president’s pockets and curry favor with him. On Friday, USA Today reported that Trump’s companies own more than 400 condos worth at least $250 million. Since election day, Trump companies have sold 14 luxury condos and home-building lots for about $23 million, with many of the buyers’ identities being shielded by shell companies.
“The volume of real estate creates an extraordinary and unprecedented potential for people, corporations or foreign interests to try to influence a president,” USA Today reports. “Anyone who wanted to court favor with the president could snap up multiple properties or purposefully overpay. They could buy in the name of a shell company, making it impossible for the public to know who was behind the sales.”