Cummings Launches “Sunshine Week” With Broad Review of Trump Administration Secrecy
Cummings Launches “Sunshine Week” With
Broad Review of Trump Administration Secrecy
Sends First Set of Letters This Week—
To Trump Organization and Trump Foundation
Washington, D.C. (Mar. 12, 2018)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, commenced “Sunshine Week” with a broad review of the unprecedented secrecy of the Trump Administration and the initiation of a series of letters and other actions seeking information that has been withheld from Congress for months. Sunshine Week is focused on efforts to improve government transparency and openness.
Fact Sheet on Trump Administration Secrecy
This morning, Cummings released a fact sheet—Sunshine Week: Shining a Light on Secrecy in the Trump Administration—chronicling just some of the actions taken by President Trump and his Administration to reverse many of the groundbreaking steps taken by the Obama Administration to improve government transparency, and describes the refusal of the White House to respond to multiple requests from Congress, including for information about security clearances, payments from foreign governments, the use of private email accounts on nongovernmental servers, the response to the hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the deadly ambush of four U.S. servicemembers in Niger.
Letters on Foreign Emoluments
Today, Cummings also sent two letters—to the Trump Organization and the Department of the Treasury—seeking documents about their receipt of foreign payments. These documents were first requested last April in a bipartisan letter from Cummings and then-Chairman Jason Chaffetz.
On May 11, 2017, the Trump Organization sent a woefully incomplete response with only a glossy, eight-page pamphlet and indicated that the Trump Organization would not comply until 2018. This year, Oversight Committee Democrats sent letters on January 11, 2018, and February 2, 2018, requesting that Chairman Trey Gowdy issue a subpoena or allow Committee Members to vote, but he never responded. Republicans blocked a Democratic effort to offer a subpoena motion at the Committee’s business meeting on February 6, 2018.
On February 26, 2018, the Trump Organization announced that it made a payment to the Treasury, and soon thereafter Eric Trump stated that the amount was $151,470. However, they refused to answer any questions about how the accounting was done, which properties were included, or which foreign entities paid money to the President’s businesses.
In today’s letters, Cummings asked the Department of the Treasury for all information submitted by the Trump organization about foreign payments, and he asked the Trump Organization to fully comply with the Committee’s bipartisan request from last April.
“There is no legitimate reason for the Trump Organization to withhold information about these payments from Congress. We have an obligation to determine whether foreign governments are spending money at President Trump’s businesses, how much they are spending, and whether these payments violate the Emoluments Clause,” Cummings wrote. “Complying with the United States Constitution is not an optional exercise, but a requirement for serving as our nation’s President. It remains a requirement even if Republicans in Congress have no interest in enforcing it.”
Letter on Trump Foundation
Also today, Cummings sent a letter requesting that Chairman Gowdy issue a subpoena to compel the Donald J. Trump Foundation to provide documents it has been withholding from Congress since last November relating to multiple instances of apparent self-dealing in violation of the law.
On November 22, 2016, Cummings sent a letter to the Trump Foundation requesting documents about public reports that the Foundation’s 2015 tax filings to the Internal Revenue Service indicated that the Foundation had provided income or assets to a disqualified individual or individuals in 2015 and in at least one prior year.
The Foundation reportedly spent more than a quarter-million dollars to settle lawsuits involving the President’s companies, spent $20,000 to purchase a six-foot portrait of the President, and paid a 10% tax to the IRS for an illegal $25,000 contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who later dropped an investigation of fraud allegations against Trump University.
In his letter to Gowdy, Cummings noted that Gowdy and other Republicans have launched numerous investigations of the Clinton Foundation, including investigations relating to Uranium One, proceeds from speeches by Bill Clinton, and allegations that Secretary Clinton pressured Bangladesh to drop an investigation into a Clinton Foundation donor.
“In contrast to these allegations against the Clinton Foundation, the Trump Foundation has admitted that it provided income to at least one disqualified individual in 2015 and at least one previous year,” Cummings wrote. “It is the Oversight Committee’s responsibility to determine whether Donald Trump, while he was a candidate for President, illegally aided his campaign or engaged in self-dealing to benefit himself or his family members in violation of federal law.”
Failure of Republicans to Conduct Vigorous Oversight
Committee Republicans have refused dozens of requests by Democrats to conduct basic oversight of the Trump Administration, instead spending their time teaming up with Rep. Devin Nunes, the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, to investigate long-debunked allegations against Secretary Clinton.
To date, Chairman Gowdy has not issued a single subpoena in his entire tenure as Chairman, and Republicans have rejected 19 requests to even allow Committee members to debate subpoena motions.
“Forecast” for the Rest of Sunshine Week
Cummings and other Oversight Committee Democrats plan to spend this week calling on the Trump Administration to produce information to Congress and the American people on a wide variety of topics, including the Administration’s failure to comply with the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act and the retroactive classification of documents relating to the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.
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