The main U.S. government-accountability agency will examine the public and private spending that went into President Donald Trump‘s transition to the presidency, as well as the ethics guidance his team received.
The review was outlined in a April 5 letter to Representative Elijah Cummings and Senator Elizabeth Warren, both Democrats, who had recommended the Government Accountability Office to examine potential conflicts of interest between Trump’s transition team and his business interests, as well as the team’s communications with foreign governments. Warren’s office released GAO’s letter Tuesday.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for commentary. Trump has retained ownership in his businesses, placing them in a trust managed by his adult sons. Ethicists have called these agreements insufficient to separate the president from his personal financial interests.
Democrats, who are in the minority in Congress, don’t have much leverage in trying government reviews of Trump and his businesses. Yet the GAO, which reports to Congress, previously agreed to a request from Warren, Cummings and other Democrats to review travel costs and security the terms and conditions for Trump at his Florida estate.
For the transition-team review, the agency said it planned to look into” what ethics-related provisions apply to those involved in a transition ,” as well as how the transition use public and private funds and” information and services related to conflicts of interest and financial disclosure” from the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. The review will also examine the transition team’s practises for” communication with heads of foreign governments ,” according to the GAO’s letter.
The agency said it also plans to compare the 2017 transition to those in 2009 and 2001.
Warren and Cummings — in a November 2016 letter that inspired the GAO’s response — requested that the agency” address several fears including conflicts of interest related to business holds of Mr. Trump and his family; potential violations of protocol and security precautions related to Mr. Trump’s communications with foreign leaders; and transparency related to the use of taxpayer funds in the transition .”
Warren and Cummings quoth media reports that Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, attended a meeting with Japanese leader Shinzo Abe and that Trump spoke to at the least one foreign leader on his personal cell phone during the transition.” There is no indication of whether this call or Mr. Trump’s other phone calls with foreign leaders were on secure phone lines ,” the letter says.
Their letter also questioned whether taxpayers paid for Trump to travel on his personal airliner during the transition.” There is no transparency with regard to transition expenditures, raising additional questions about how taxpayer funds may be flowing into Mr. Trump’s pockets ,” it says.
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