House Democrats are pressing the Trump administration for details about White House officials staying at properties owned by President Trump, stating that such visits come at a cost for taxpayers and could violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.
The lawmakers are requesting records on Vice President Pence’s recent stay at Trump’s Doonbeg hotel in Ireland and the president’s proposal to have Trump National Doral Miami host the 2020 Group of Seven (G-7) summit, among other potential uses of Trump’s properties.
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) issued a series of letters to the vice president, the White House, the U.S. Secret Service and the Trump organization asking about Pence’s trip to the Trump International Golf Links and Hotel in Doonbeg.
“Potential violations of the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution are of grave concern to the Committee as it considers whether to recommend articles of impeachment,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), another member of his panel, said in a joint statement.
The Emoluments Clause bars the president from accepting gifts or other benefits from foreign and domestic governments without congressional approval.
“The Committee does not believe that U.S. taxpayer funds should be used to personally enrich President Trump, his family, and his companies,” Cummings said.
Pence made headlines this week by staying at the property even as he had meetings in Dublin, about 180 miles away.
Pence’s office offered shifting explanations for how the vice president ended up at Doonbeg, with his chief of staff first saying Trump had suggested it. The vice president’s team then said the decision was entirely Pence’s and it was because of its proximity to Pence’s ancestral hometown.
Nadler and Cohen sent a letter to the White House counsel and Secret Service asking for further information on Trump’s plan to host the G-7 next year.
It said Trump’s idea could mean foreign governments would have to conduct business with Trump companies to engage in diplomacy with the United States, which the lawmakers said would clearly violate the Emoluments Clause.
“The Doral situation reflects perhaps the first publicly known instance in which foreign governments would be required to spend foreign government funds at President Trump’s private businesses in order to engage in official diplomatic negotiations and meetings with the United States,” the letter states.
“The threat of the president’s personal financial interests could shape decisions concerning official U.S. government activities is precisely the risk that the Clauses were intended to minimize.”
Nadler and Cohen say they want confirmation from the Secret Service and law enforcement that staying at Trump-owned properties is not any cheaper or easier to secure, a claim White House officials, including Pence, have made.
Trump has publicly defended his Miami resort as top contender for the next G-7 meeting, calling it a “natural” location because of its proximity to a major airport while vowing that he was not trying to boost his own properties.
“Doral happens to be within Miami. It’s a city, it’s a wonderful place,” Trump told reporters at a press conference that took place at the conclusion of this year’s G-7 summit, held in Biarritz, France. “It’s very importantly only five minutes from the airport — the airport is right next door.”
Nadler and Cummings are asking for documents related to the Miami property by Sept. 19.