House Democrats investigate federal payments to Trump businesses

“There may be other expenditures of American taxpayer funds at Trump properties that are not yet publicly known.”

Elizabeth Palazio holds up an American Flag with "Show Your Taxes" written on it in front of Trump Tower, Saturday, April 15, 2017, in Chicago. Image credit: Tyler LaRiviere/NationofChange

Concerned that President Donald Trump and his family appear to be profiting off taxpayer money, 18 Democratic minority members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee sent letters on Tuesday to 15 cabinet departments and nine independent executive branch agencies, requesting documentation of federal spending “on products or services provided by businesses owned by or affiliated with the Trump Organization.” Rep. Elijah Cummings and the other members sent the letters while the president and his inner circle currently reside at his private golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.

“The American people deserve to know how their tax dollars are spent, including the amount of federal funds that are being provided to private businesses owned by the President and the purposes of these expenditures,” the legislators wrote in a recent letter to DHS Acting Secretary Elaine Duke.

“Against the advice of ethics experts from both parties, President Trump has chosen to break with modern precedent and become the first President in four decades not to liquidate his assets and place them in a truly blind and diversified trust. Instead, President Trump has placed his assets in a revocable trust from which he can withdraw any amount of money he wants whenever he chooses to do so.”

After appointing his son, Donald Trump Jr., to run the Trump Organization, the president placed his assets in a trust that allows him to withdraw from it at any time. Besides failing to disclose his tax returns, Trump and his family repeatedly take vacations while staying at Trump-owned properties.

“The President’s financial entanglements make it impossible to know whether he is making his decisions in the public interest or to benefit to him or his family members financially,” the committee members continued. “The President’s continued ownership of private businesses also places federal employees in compromised positions when they work on official activities that create financial benefits for the President or his family members.”

Trump has reportedly visited his own properties at least 48 times since his inauguration, costing millions of taxpayer dollars to transport and adequately protect the president. During a lease dispute with the Trump Organization, the U.S. Secret Service recently vacated its command post inside Trump Tower and relocated to a trailer parked on the street.

Citing the president’s frequent trips to Mar-a-Lago and Bedminster, the letter also pointed to the State Department spending more than $15,000 to book 19 rooms for the grand opening of a Trump hotel in Vancouver. In January, the State Department spent nearly $10,000 to provide lodging for Secret Service agents assigned to protect Eric Trump during a business trip promoting a Trump hotel in Uruguay. Before the current lease dispute, the Defense Department had been renting space inside Trump Tower, where the president is expected to visit this weekend.

Rep. Cummings and his fellow members also noted that Trump has an ownership stake in Starrett City Associates, the nation’s largest federally subsidized residential property. Since May 2013, Starrett City’s owners have received more than $490 million in rent subsidy payments from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“There may be other expenditures of American taxpayer funds at Trump properties that are not yet publicly known,” the letter continued. “Federal agencies and their employees may be hosting events or renting hotel rooms at Trump properties, eating meals at Trump property restaurants, or contracting for equipment rentals with Trump businesses.”

The legislators concluded by requesting all documents relating to federal payments made to the Trump Organization and its affiliates during the president’s term in office. The minority members of the House Oversight Committee requested that the departments and agencies respond by August 25.


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