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World

Democrats Seek Federal Payments to Trump Business

President Trump has visited his own properties 48 times since his inauguration

In this Nov. 17, 2016 file photo, security personnel stand at the front entrance of Trump Tower in New York, photo: AP/Seth Wenig, File
4 months ago

WASHINGTON – As President Donald Trump spends much of August at his New Jersey golf club, Democratic lawmakers are making a new push for information about how much money the federal government is spending at his for-profit properties.

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday asked departments to hand over information about their Trump-related spending by Aug. 25.

“The American people deserve to know how their tax dollars are spent, including the amount of federal funds that are being provided to private businesses owned by the president and the purposes of these expenditures,” reads the lawmakers’ letter to Elaine Duke, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. The lawmakers sent similar requests to all Cabinet secretaries.

Their request seeks documents about any payments the departments made to the Trump Organization or any business in which the Trump organization has an ownership stake.

Trump hasn’t shied away from his homes away from the White House. He’s visited his own properties 48 times since his inauguration, including a dozen overnight stays such as the one he’s on now, according to a news agency tally.

He’s planning an excursion to New York City next week, raising the possibility he’ll stop by Trump Tower, where he lived for decades until moving into the White House.

Most presidents have maintained and visited their personal homes while in office. Think George W. Bush’s Crawford, Texas, ranch and Barack Obama’s Chicago house.

The difference with Trump is that his residences are part of his business empire. That means when the Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security spend money to move and protect the president around his own properties, some taxpayer money makes its way into Trump Organization coffers.

Trump turned over company leadership to his adult sons and a senior business executive, but he did not divest as previous presidents have done. The trust in which he placed his business assets includes a clause that he can draw down money at any time.

The Democratic Oversight letter cites reports about the State Department booking rooms at a new Trump hotel in Vancouver, British Columbia, where his adult sons were on site for the grand opening, and the Defense Department and Homeland Security renting space at Trump Tower, where first lady Melania Trump and the couple’s 11-year-old son lived until the end of the school year.

“President Trump also makes frequent trips to properties he owns, and these trips may result in U.S. taxpayers’ money flowing into President Trump’s pockets,” the letter to Duke reads.

The new effort is one of many to understand how much money the Trump-led government is spending on businesses that he still owns. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is undertaking the most comprehensive study.

The office agreed to a congressional request earlier this year to analyze all government spending involved in several weekend trips Trump made to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

A GAO spokesman said Tuesday there’s no estimate yet for when that report will be ready.

JULIE BYKOWICZ

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