Apparently, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee aren’t willing to just take President Trump’s word about how he’ll donate profits from foreign governments to the nation’s treasury.
It appears they’re familiar with the man’s history.
In a bipartisan show, chairman of the committee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and the ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.) sent a letter to the Trump Organization’s lawyer, Sheri Dillon, requesting details of exactly how Trump intends to keep his word.
The letter demands all information related to how the company plans to sort and return foreign government profits to the government, what Trump properties or entities are going to return said profits and whether the company plans to claim these donations to the treasury as tax deductions.
On Jan. 17, Trump held a press conference to announce his plans to place his two adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric Trump, in charge of his Trump Organization while maintaining his full ownership stake in all of his companies and properties. His decision to break with decades of presidential precedent and not divest or fully separate himself from his business opened him up to a vast array of conflicts of interest.
The letter was sent the day after Chaffetz announced he wouldn’t be seeking reelection in 2018, and could possibly exit even sooner.
I guess he’s just tying up loose ends.
The concern some have with Trump’s arrangements lies with the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which says government officials can’t accept gifts, any sort of payments, or “titles of nobility” from foreign governments.
It’s an ethics issue.
Dillon has said that the Emoluments Clause doesn’t apply to Trump. I’m not sure why. He’s a government official, right? I mean, he’s actually THE government official, so it would seem to especially apply to him.
“The Constitution does not require President-elect Trump to do anything here,” she said in January. “But, just like with conflicts of interest, he wants to do more than what the Constitution requires. So, President-elect Trump has decided, and we are announcing today, that he is going to voluntarily donate all profits from foreign governments made to his hotel to the United States treasury.”
The Emoluments Clause is from our Constitution, Article I, Section 9, Clause 8. I’ve got a Pocket Constitution right here, actually, and it reads:
“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
That’s copied exactly from the text.
I suppose there can be some honest, open debate about whether personally profiting from foreign dignitaries staying at Trump properties could be considered a “gift” or something of that nature.
Trump’s tax lawyer says “no,” but there are Constitutional lawyers and ethics gurus who say otherwise.
Chaffetz and Cummings want to know how the Trump Organization is calculating the profits from these events and hotel room reservations. The average profit margin for a luxury hotel was between 6 to 15 percent in 2013. Where does the Trump D.C. hotel fall in that range?
The hotel is not the only potential landing place for foreign government profits. According to USA Today, the Trump Organization has sold 58 real estate properties for about $90 million since the election. The majority of those sales have gone to limited liability companies that mask the identity of the owner.
Regardless, Trump made certain promises about what he intended to do with those profits, in order to calm any concerns, and House Oversight is right to want to get details nailed down, long before it becomes a major issue.