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Senate Dems ask DHS inspector general for probe of Trump’s business arrangement

Senate Dems ask DHS inspector general for probe of Trump’s business arrangement
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Several Senate Democrats penned a letter to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general Friday, raising questions about President Trump’s potential conflicts of interest. 

The senators say that Trump may have violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which bars the president from using the office for personal gain. 

“It would appear that any payment for goods or services, or benefit conferred, from the federal government to the Trump Organization would benefit the President and therefore be an emolument prohibited by the Constitution,” the letter to Inspector General John Roth reads. 

The letter is signed by Sens. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallDem senators demand Trump explain ties to Koch brothers Dem senators unveil expanded public option for health insurance Overnight Energy: Watchdogs unveil findings on EPA, Interior controversies | GAO says EPA violated law with soundproof booth | IG says Zinke could have avoided charter flight | GOP chair probes Pruitt's four email addresses MORE (N.M.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDem senators demand Trump explain ties to Koch brothers Overnight Energy: Senate confirms Bridenstine as NASA chief | Watchdog probes Pruitt’s use of security detail | Emails shine light on EPA science policy changes EPA inspector general to probe Pruitt's use of taxpayer-funded security detail on trips to Disneyland, Rose Bowl game MORE (R.I.) and Edward MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDem senators demand Trump explain ties to Koch brothers Overnight Cybersecurity: Senators want info on 'stingray' surveillance in DC | Bills to secure energy infrastructure advance | GOP lawmaker offers cyber deterrence bill Overnight Tech: Alleged robocall kingpin testifies before Congress | What lawmakers learned | Push for new robocall rules | Facebook changes privacy settings ahead of new data law | Time Warner CEO defends AT&T merger at trial MORE (Mass.).

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They specifically focus on the arrangement of Trump’s large business holdings, under which he handed control of the Trump Organization to his sons and put his assets into a trust. 

“The arrangement raises significant potential for conflicts of interest and risks the perception that President Trump is exploiting his public office for his family’s private gain,” they wrote. 

And they raise questions about the cost associated with Trump and his family’s visits to their properties outside of Washington; Trump has spent the past three weekends at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach.

The senators write that if staff, security and military aides are being charged for stays at Mar-a-Lago, “it directly benefits the President’s business and allows him to profit off of every vacation he takes to one of his properties.” 

“We believe your office must conduct a thorough investigation into these issues and continuously monitor the potential for conflicts and violations of the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the Constitution during President Trump’s term,” they write. 

They list several specific topics to be addressed as part of such an investigation, including whether DHS plans to rent property or make purchases from the Trump Organization, such as in Trump Tower in New York, where first lady Melania Trump and their son Barron currently reside. 

They also ask about the threat of terrorist attacks on real estate projects around the world branded with the Trump name and whether DHS has done any risk assessments of such scenarios.  

Lastly, they inquire whether Trump’s real estate holdings obligate DHS to protect the properties, and if so, at what cost.