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Commerce Department IG to audit Trump's tariff exemptions

Commerce Department IG to audit Trump's tariff exemptions
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The Commerce Department's office of inspector general (IG) is planning to audit the process by which firms gain exemptions to U.S. tariffs, according to documents obtained by The Hill.

According to an internal letter dated Monday, the IG is investigating how decisions are made to assign exemptions for President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill DEA places agent seen outside Capitol during riot on leave Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee MORE's steel and aluminum tariffs.

The IG will review the Bureau of Industry and Security and the International Trade Administration's processes for assigning aluminum and steel tariff exemptions.

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A spokesman for the IG confirmed to The Hill on Thursday that the audit is taking place.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed concerns about the process by which tariff exemptions are adjudicated.

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSenate coronavirus bill delayed until Thursday Democrats cut deals to bolster support for relief bill Senate GOP will force clerks to read bill to delay COVID-19 relief vote MORE (R-Wis.) sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossFormer Trump officials find tough job market On The Money: Retail sales drop in latest sign of weakening economy | Fast-food workers strike for minimum wage | US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits MORE in August demanding he explain how firms are granted exclusions and calling the process "arbitrary."

"The Department's denial of the exclusion request has resulted in [one] Wisconsin business incurring an additional $2.6 million tariff cost that can not be used to expand production or to pay salaries of new employees," Johnson wrote in the letter.

"Across the country, many businesses share the same frustration about the difficult and time-consuming process."

That same month, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHillicon Valley: High alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday | Biden signals another reversal from Trump with national security guidance | Parler files a new case Senators question Bezos, Amazon about cameras placed in delivery vans Democrats worry Senate will be graveyard for Biden agenda MORE (D-Mass.) called on the IG to look into the steel and aluminum tariff exemption review process.

"This process appears to be running on an ad hoc basis, with little transparency, and bending to political pressure from well-connected lobbyists and administration officials," she contended.

There have been complaints about the exemption process since the tariffs rolled out, after the Commerce Department was caught in a flood of requests, allegedly leading to disarray, The New York Times reports