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Top Oversight Dem: Investigate Trump's Financial Conflicts of Interest Before Inauguration

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) questions a witness at a Feb. 3, 2016, hearing. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

WASHINGTON — The top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform committee is calling on GOP Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) to launch an inquiry into potential financial conflicts of interest concerning President-elect Trump’s company.

In a letter to Chaffetz today, Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) asked that he
“immediately” begin conducting a review of Trump’s financial arrangements “to ensure that he does not have any actual or perceived conflicts of interest and that he and his advisors comply with all legal and regulatory ethical requirements when he assumes the presidency.”

“We have never had a president like Mr. Trump in terms of his vast financial entanglements and his widespread business interests around the globe. Moreover, we have not had a presidential candidate in modern times who has refused to disclose his tax returns to the American people,” Cummings wrote. “Mr. Trump’s unprecedented secrecy and his extensive business dealings in foreign countries raise serious questions about how he intends to avoid conflicts of interest as president.”

The congressman cited reports indicating that Trump “will be relying heavily on his children to operate his financial empire, but these same individuals have played a significant role in his presidential campaign and continue to advise Mr. Trump on his transition team.”

“This is certainly not a ‘blind trust,'” he added, referencing the arrangement that Trump said he would seek in terms of his business interests.

Cummings noted that Congress “has put in place several laws to avoid financial conflicts of interest—both actual and perceived” and the Oversight Committee has “direct jurisdiction over these financial interest laws and the White House.”

The committee’s probe should include inviting “appropriate officials designated by Mr. Trump to hear from them directly about their plans.”

“It is critical that we conduct this review as soon as possible to ensure that these questions are answered prior to Mr. Trump assuming office,” Cummings added.

He reminded Chaffetz that “for the past six years, you and other Republicans in Congress have launched numerous investigations against President Obama and Secretary Clinton, and some of these have been used for partisan political purposes, as Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy admitted regarding the Benghazi Committee.”

“Now that Republicans control the White House and Congress, it is incumbent on you and other Republicans to conduct robust oversight over Mr. Trump — not for partisan reasons, but to ensure that our government operates effectively and efficiently and combats even the perception of corruption or abuse,” Cummings concluded.

Chaffetz has said he’s going to continue investigating Hillary Clinton in the new Congress but hasn’t addressed Cummings’ concern.

Cummings told MSNBC that he and Chaffetz “have a great relationship” and noted that the chairman “has railed against conflicts of interest.”

“As the minority party, we can always ask that we — our chairman to do the job that we have been slated to do, and that is to look at these kind of issues. We do it every day. That’s what we do. And so we are the Government Reform and Oversight Committee,” he said. “And so that — I’m just asking him to do his job. I’ve already sent him the letter. Hopefully, he’ll respond very shortly and we can move forward with this.”