WASHINGTON — House Democrats have shifted the focus of their probes into President Donald Trump from the Mueller report to what they said was Trump's use of the presidency for "self-enrichment" through patronage at his hotels and golf resorts by U.S. and foreign government officials.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan), the Judiciary Committee chairman, and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the Oversight Committee chairman, highlighted the issue Friday by opening a probe into Vice President Mike Pence's stay at Trump’s Doonberg golf resort in Ireland and Trump's lobbying to host next year's G-7 summit at his Doral National Golf Course in Miami.
“The central sin, the original sin, of the Trump administration is the decision to convert the presidency into a moneymaking operation for the president and his business and his family,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) told CNN.
“I think that we’ve got to beat down on the Emoluments Clause because the founders of the country, the framers of the Constitution, wanted the president to have complete undivided loyalty to the American people and not to foreign princes, kings and governments,” said Raskin, who serves on both Judiciary and Oversight committees, on MSNBC.
The White House had no comment.
Trump has denied he is making money from his presidency. In a rally in Pittsburgh last month, Trump said, “This thing is costing me a fortune, being president,” putting his losses at $3 to $5 billion.”
When members of Congress return from the summer recess on Monday, House Democrats said they intend to pursue their current investigations into Trump, including the Judiciary Committee’s examination of five of Trump’s potential acts of obstruction of the Russia probe that special counsel Robert Mueller identified in his report.
But the Judiciary Committee recently has added new targets to its already wide number of investigations, including a subpoena to the Department of Homeland Security for Trump’s alleged offers of pardons to officials who break the law to carry out his immigration policy.
The Judiciary Committee also intends to investigate charges that Trump made “hush-money” payments in 2016 to adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, holding a hearing as soon as next month.
The White House has stymied many of the investigations by refusing to cooperate and blocking current and former White House officials from testifying despite House committee subpoenas, forcing lengthy court battles.
Meanwhile, the number of Democrats in the House favoring a formal impeachment inquiry has continued to grow, even as the Judiciary Committee portrays its probes as part of an investigation into whether to impeach the president.
On Friday, Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and subcommittee chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) sent a letter to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone requesting documents, communications and legal opinions about Trump’s promotion of his Doral golf resort for the next G7 meeting.
“The Doral situation reflects perhaps the first publicly known instance in which foreign governments would be required to spend foreign government funds at President Trump’s private businesses in order to engage in official diplomatic negotiations and meetings with the United States,” the letter said.
And Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, sought details about Pence’s stay at Doonberg in letters to Trump’s chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney; Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short; Secret Service Director James Murray, and the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg.
Cummings noted the contradictory statements about whether Trump told Pence “you should stay at my place” while in Ireland, followed by a statement saying Trump did not “direct” Pence to stay at Doonberg, and asked for all communications about that conversation.
Cummings also requested the itemized cost of Pence’s trip to Ireland.