WASHINGTON - House Democrats are demanding information on the use of taxpayer money at President Donald Trump's hotels and properties, including during Vice President Pence's trip this week to Doonbeg, Ireland. The push is part of an expanded effort this fall to investigate the president's financial entanglements and business practices.
The House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees announced Friday that they sent a series of letters regarding “multiple efforts” by the president, vice president, and other Trump administration officials to spend taxpayer money at properties owned by Trump. They say the spending could violate the Constitution and bolster the case for Trump's impeachment.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said in a statement that the spending is “of grave concern” to his committee, which is investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment to the full House. House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said that his panel “does not believe that U.S. taxpayer funds should be used to personally enrich President Trump, his family, and his companies.”
The letters come after Pence stayed at Trump's resort in Doonbeg , Ireland, this week. Doonbeg is on the other side of Ireland from Dublin, where he had meetings. The Democrats also sent letters to the White House and Secret Service about Trump's suggestion earlier this month that his Miami-area golf course host next year's Group of Seven summit with foreign leaders. The Democrats say those instances, among others, could violate the Constitution's emoluments clause, which bans the president from taking gifts from foreign governments.
The push comes as Democrats are trying to keep public attention on their investigations of Trump. They have spent much of the year probing episodes detailed in special counsel Robert Mueller's report, which did not exonerate the president on obstruction of justice. But lawmakers say they think the American public may have even more interest in Trump profiting off of his presidency as they weigh whether to move forward on impeachment.
“We have been focused on the Mueller report and that is a very small part of the overall picture,” said Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, a member of the Judiciary panel. “We must get America focused on the ongoing violations against basic Constitutional principles.”
In addition to looking at Trump's use of his properties, two House committees are continuing to investigate his relationship with banks with which he did business. And the Judiciary panel is also expected to investigate hush money payments that Trump paid to kill potentially embarrassing stories.
Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, another Democrat on the Judiciary panel, says he believes that the misuse of public funds or financial corruption make Americans especially angry. And while people have heard a lot about the Mueller report, he says they may know less about the emoluments clause.
“I think you'll see a lot more of that in the coming months,” Cicilline said.