Republicans in Congress have given no indication that they are interested in launching investigations into President-elect Donald Trump’s business interests despite potential conflicts that critics and some experts say could violate the Constitution.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, waved off the idea of an investigation into Trump’s international business ties, saying that Trump has not yet violated any law because he’s not yet the president.
“Remind me, is he sworn in, yet?” McCarthy, the second ranking Republican in the House, told reporters Tuesday. “And Democrats already want to investigate him before he’s sworn in?”
McCarthy pointed to Trump’s naming of Don McGahn as his chief legal counsel as the appropriate person to sift through Trump’s business holdings, calling him “highly respected” and someone who will do the right thing.
“I don’t think we expected him in the first day to be able to change his entire business structure, but I think it will be in the process,” McCarthy said.
And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, said that Trump's transition team is looking into the issue.
"I know they're considering the issue that you raised and will hear what they recommend as we move toward Inauguration Day," McConnell said.
On Monday, all the Democratic members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee sent a letter to the Republican chair, Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, Monday, calling for “robust” and “urgent” oversight of Trump.
In their letter, Democrats wrote that Chaffetz has “the authority to launch a Committee investigation, and we are calling on you to use that power now. You acted with unprecedented urgency to hold ‘emergency’ hearings and issue multiple unilateral subpoenas to investigate Secretary Clinton before the election. We ask that that you show the same sense of urgency now.” Chaffetz has not responded to the letter.
Concerns about Trump’s business ties have grown since his election. During the campaign, Trump said that his children will take over his business operation. But his daughter, Ivanka Trump, has sat in on meetings or phone calls the president-elect has had with at least three world leaders. The Washington Post reports that Trump has 111 business interests in 18 countries and that he is advertising his hotel to foreign diplomats. And two scholars wrote in Government Executive that Trump will be in violation of the law for his new hotel in Washington, D.C., which says no elected official can enter into a lease with the federal government.
Trump has dismissed any possibility that a conflict of interest exists. He tweeted that the “crooked media” is escalating a non-issue. And he told the New York Times that the president “can’t have a conflict of interest.”
But the possible violation is outlined in the Emoluments Clause of Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution, which says “no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, office or title of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has been critical of Trump, said that Trump’s business ties are a concern.
“Turning it over to his family and him still being a receipt of the fruit of their labor does create conflicts in my mind,” Graham told reporters Tuesday.
McCarthy said Trump needs time to figure it out.
“Why don’t you give him an opportunity when he just now appointed his legal counsel to go through, put it in order, and display that to the American people what that structure is before we say something needs to be investigated,” McCarthy said.