Donald Trump’s dual roles as president-elect of the United States and owner of a large but completely opaque network of privately held companies present unprecedented conflicts of interest that the country heard little about during a campaign where coverage was dominated by Hillary Clinton’s emails and chasing the latest crazy-sounding Trump remarks.
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, wants Congress to start focusing on these problems and has sent a letter to his opposite number, Chair Jason Chaffetz of Utah, requesting hearings into the matter.
Cummings notes that “Trump’s unprecedented secrecy and his extensive business dealings in foreign countries raise serious questions about how he intends to avoid conflicts of interests as president.” He correctly notes that Trump’s plan to have his children run his businesses does not even begin to solve the problem, because “these same individuals have played a significant role in his presidential campaign and continue to advise Mr. Trump on his transition team.”
Consequently, he’s asking Chaffetz to “begin a review of these issues and invite appropriate officials designated by Mr. Trump to hear from them directly about their plans.”
I will not defend or endorse @realDonaldTrump, but I am voting for him. HRC is that bad. HRC is bad for the USA.— Jason Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse) October 27, 2016
Chaffetz is an interesting swing figure in Congress, because during the 2016 campaign he, like many Republicans, appeared to have significant reservations about Trump. His final ruling was that Hillary Clinton was an extremely terrible person and so he would vote for Trump, who is unusually unpopular for a Republican in Chaffetz’s home state of Utah but still more popular than Clinton. Clinton, however, is no longer running for president, so the Trump-Clinton comparison is no longer strictly relevant. The question is simply whether Trump should be allowed to proceed unimpeded with unprecedented conflicts of interest because he’s such a nice and trustworthy guy or whether Congress should do something about it.
Cummings says they should, and we’ll have to see if Chaffetz agrees.
You can read the full text of the letter here and our explainer on Trump’s conflicts of interest here.