It’s tough to keep up with all of the investigations surrounding President Trump, but this is a new one and it’s centered on the conflicts of interest with the Trump transition and taxpayer money. Your money.
A government watchdog committee, aka the U.S. Government Accountability Office, announced in a letter that they have initiated an investigation into President Donald Trump’s transition.
They will address:
1. What laws and federal entities guide the orderly transfer of executive power during a presidential transition and after inauguration, and what ethics-related provisions apply to those involved in a transition?
2. What are GSA’s processes to manage funds appropriated for the 2017 post-election incoming presidential transition and what were the types and amounts of expenditures made with these funds as of January 31, 2017? How much in private funds did the transition team report collecting and spending for the 2017 transition?
3. What information and services related to conflicts of interest and financial disclosure did the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) make available during the presidential transition and after inauguration? What is known about the transition team’s use of OGE’s services and how do the information and services provided for the 2017 transition compare to the 2009 and 2001 transitions?
4. What information and services related to communication with heads of foreign governments were made available to the President- and Vice President-Elect and transition team? What is known about the transition teams use of services and how do the information and services provided for the 2017 transition compare to the 2009 and 2001 transitions?
This investigation is the result of a November 2016 request by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who is the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
They raised questions about “conflicts of interest related to business holdings of Mr. Trump and his family; potential violations of protocol and security precautions related to Mr. Trump’s communications with foreign leaders; and transparency related to the use of taxpayer funds in the transition” and “Has the transition appropriately followed rules, protocol, and precedent for communicating with foreign governments? Have telephonic, electronic, and any other communications by Mr. Trump and other transition members followed appropriate security procedures?”
Their letter included concerns such as:
Taxpayer funds, about which they ask, “Has the Trump transition used taxpayer dollars efficiently and effectively? Have funds from the transition or associated with the transition (such as reimbursements from the Secret Service) gone to companies owned by Mr. Trump? If so, how much was the total amount paid to Mr. Trump’s business entities? Have the payments been fair and reasonable?”
An example: “During the early months ofthe presidential campaign, Mr. Trump charged the Secret Service $1.6 million for flights, with “the government effectively paying him” because he owned the airline. 17 During the transition, which is based at Trump Tower in New York City, Mr. Trump is traveling back and forth from New York to Washington, DC, using his airline. There is no transparency with regard to transition expenditures, raising additional questions about how taxpayer funds may be flowing into Mr. Trump’s pockets.”
Conflicts of interest and a not so blind blind trust, about which they write, “A qualified blind trust, which must be approved by the Office of Government Ethics, would allow Mr. Trump to forgo reporting the details of some assets in his financial disclosures. The Ethics in Government Act explicitly prohibits Mr. Trump’s children from managing such a trust.”
An example: “Just last week, we learned that despite claims that Mr. Trump is not interested in his business anymore, the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C. hosted “about 100 foreign diplomats, from Brazil to Turkey … to sip Trump-branded champagne, dine on sliders and hear a sales pitch about the U.S. [P]resident-[E]lect’s newest hotel.” Diplomats told the press that “spending money at Trump’s hotel is an easy, friendly gesture to the new president.”11 Mr. Trump recently took a break from his preparation for the Presidency to meet “in his office at Trump Tower with three Indian business partners” and his adult children, who will soon take over his company. 12 New reports this week indicate that when Argentinean President Mauricio Mauri called to congratulate Mr. Trump on his victory, Mr. Trump “asked Macri to deal with the permitting issues that are currently holding up” a Buenos Aires office building project planned by Mr. Trump and his Argentinean partners.13 At this point, it is not clear ifthe line between Mr. Trump’s Presidency and his and business ventures is blurred-or entirely nonexistent.”
The transition team was granted $9.5 million in taxpayer funds to assist with the transition, as well as other taxpayer funded support such as Secret Service protection.
The GOA plans to complete their investigation in June of 2017.
This is just covering the Trump transition, which is to say it’s not even touching the myriad of conflicts of interest that swirl around the president on a daily basis, due to his own refusal to follow guidelines and protocol.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.