Trump Didn’t Give Ethics Office Documentation, Cummings SaysBy
Top ethics official met with oversight lawmakers Monday
Trump released letter Monday stating he had left businesses
President Donald Trump didn’t provide government ethics officials documentation to show he had carried out his plan to step away from his businesses, a Democratic lawmaker said, something every other president since 1978 had done prior to inauguration.
In a meeting Monday with lawmakers, Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub said that his agency hadn’t received the paperwork finalizing Trump’s arrangements, which Trump’s lawyers had presented two weeks earlier, according to Representative Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, who attended the meeting.
Trump announced Jan. 11 that his two oldest sons would run his businesses, with $3.6 billion in assets all over the world. The measures fell short of the blind trusts that recent presidents with extensive assets have set up in order to wall off their personal finances from government decisions.
Also on Monday, the Trump Organization released a brief letter in which Trump resigned “from each and every office and position” in what the organization described in an accompanying statement as “more than 400 affiliated active entities.” The letter was signed by Trump and dated Jan. 19, the day before his inauguration. The statement noted that company records are in the process of being updated.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on Monday that Trump had resigned from his businesses and that Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric “are fully in charge of the company.” Spicer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Cummings’ letter Monday evening. A spokeswoman for Trump’s lawyers referred comment to the Trump Organization.
After Trump’s Jan. 11 announcement, Shaub made unusually candid public remarks, slamming the president’s plan to turn his business over to his sons as “meaningless.” Shaub has since come under scrutiny from Republican lawmakers, including House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, who had summoned Shaub for the closed-door meeting Monday.
In a separate move Monday, Cummings released a letter to the General Services Administration, which is responsible for government real estate, questioning whether Trump’s Washington hotel -- located in a former post office building -- was in violation of its lease, which bars elected officials from taking part in the agreement. Trump’s lawyers have said it doesn’t apply to him because he was not an elected official when the lease was signed in 2013.
“I am more concerned than ever about President Trump’s refusal to follow the advice of Republican and Democratic ethics experts and divest himself of his corporate ownership interests, liquidate his business assets, and place them in a truly blind trust operated by an independent entity,” Cummings said.
Congress passed the Ethics in Government Act in 1978. Though the president is exempt from its conflict-of-interest provisions, past commanders-in-chief have voluntarily complied prior to their inaugurations.