By Elise Viebeck
The Washington Post
A leading House Democrat called on Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz to launch an investigation of President-elect Donald Trump’s financial arrangements “to ensure that he does not have any actual or perceived conflicts of interest.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the panel’s ranking Democrat, urged Chaffetz, R-Utah, to hold Trump to account amid rising questions about his children’s involvement in the presidential transition as well as the management of the Trump Organization. Trump also never released his tax returns, Cummings noted, leaving the public in the dark about where his conflicts of interest might exist.
“We have never had a president like Mr. Trump in terms of his vast financial entanglements and his widespread business interests around the globe,” Cummings wrote in a letter Monday. “Mr. Trump’s unprecedented secrecy and his extensive business dealings in foreign countries raise serious questions about how he intends to avoid conflicts of interest as president.”
Cummings’ letter comes three days after Trump announced his son-in-law and three eldest children will have formal roles in his transition effort. On the same day, a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization said the company was focused on finding a way to “immediately transfer” its management to those three Trumps — Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka and Eric. The Trump transition has declined to directly answer questions about the conflicts of interest this arrangement could present.
Trump surrogate and likely Cabinet member Rudolph Giuliani has defended the arrangement as being the only fair way to treat Trump’s children.
“He would basically put his children out of work if — and they’d have to go start a whole new business, and that would set up new problems,” Giuliani said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“It’s kind of unrealistic to say you’re going to take the business away from the three people who are running it and give it to some independent person. And remember, they can’t work in the government because of the government rule against nepotism. So you would be putting them out of work.”
Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has used the term “blind trust” to describe the way Trump’s children will run the business for the next four years, though ethics experts say he’s using the term inaccurately.
“Having your children run your business is not a blind trust no matter what his attorneys choose to call it. And having those same children involved in the transition only compounds the conflict,” Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn told The Washington Post.
Cummings expressed his own doubts. “This is certainly not a ‘blind trust,’ ” he wrote to Chaffetz.
A spokeswoman for Chaffetz said committee Republicans were reviewing the letter. She did not provide additional comment.