WASHINGTON ― Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) urged the Government Accountability Office Wednesday to look into President-elect Donald Trump’s tumultuous transition.
Cummings, the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter to the GAO with Warren, pointing to conflicts of interest with Trump’s business, his family and use of taxpayer funds for the transition.
“We are concerned about reports of ‘disarray’ within a ‘chaotic’ transition, and ask that your review address several concerns, including conflicts of interest related to business holdings of Mr. Trump and his family; potential violations of protocol and security precautions related to Mr. Trump’s communications with foreign leaders,” the lawmakers wrote.
Trump’s behavior during and after the campaign, the lawmakers said, “raise[s] questions about the use of taxpayer funds during the transition.”
The letter points to comments that Trump is reportedly no longer interested in running his company, but is still involved in business meetings. Last week, Trump met with three Indian business partners and his children, who are expected to run the Trump Organization. It also remains unclear if Trump asked Argentinean President Mauricio Mauri to handle a permitting issue with a project in Buenos Aires.
“At this point, it is not clear if the line between Mr. Trump’s Presidency and his and business ventures is blurred ― or entirely nonexistent,” Warren and Cummings said.
The two lawmakers also questioned if the president-elect understands the meaning of a blind trust. Federal officials have sometimes put their assets into such a trust to prevent conflicts of interest; Trump, by contrast, has said his children would run his business.
“The Ethics in Government Act explicitly prohibits Mr. Trump’s children from managing such a trust,” the letter says. “To date, there has been no information released to the public indicating that Mr. Trump has prepared a blind trust.”
The lawmakers also want to know if the sporadic conversations Trump has had with foreign leaders in the weeks since the election have been on secure phone lines. And a number of Trump’s surrogates who are expected to work with government agencies on the transition have yet to begin their work.
“Has Mr. Trump conducted Trump Organization business during the transition? Have his family members maintained appropriate distance between the business of the Trump Organization and the presidential transition?” Cummings and Warren ask in the letter. “Has the ‘disarray” within Mr. Trump’s transition team affected his ability to effectively serve the American public beginning on January 20, 2017?”
On Tuesday, Trump told The New York Times that the law is on his side when asked about his conflicts of interest, implying that it’s not illegal for him to have them because he’s the president.
“The president can’t have a conflict of interest,” he said.