Democrats on Monday made their strongest call to date for a congressional investigation into President-elect Donald Trump's business entanglements and possible conflicts of interest, asking the GOP's top House investigator to launch a formal probe.Seventeen Democratic members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee called on the panel's chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) to "begin reviewing [Trump's] financial arrangements in order to identify and protect against conflicts of interest." The demand, in a seven-page letter, comes two weeks after the committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), made a similar request to Chaffetz.
Donald Trump's avalanche of conflicts of interest are likely to cause controversies that will not go away. The question is what Congress intends to do about it.As the Washington Post reported, Democrats -- who'll be in the minority for at least another two years -- believe the legislative branch has an oversight responsibility that must be met.
"You have the authority to launch a committee investigation, and we are calling on you to use that power now," Cummings and the other House Dems wrote. "You acted with unprecedented urgency to hold 'emergency' hearings and issue multiple unilateral subpoenas to investigate [Hillary Clinton] before the election. We ask that you show the same sense of urgency now."Chaffetz, who earlier this month vowed to continue his investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server management, has not yet responded to his Democratic colleagues' appeal.Last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also spoke up on this issue, asking the Government Accountability Office to investigate whether or not the president-elect has already used his position for private gain.
But while Democrats, with severely limited power, take an interest in Trump's burgeoning scandal, the silence from Republicans is hard to miss.As recently as August, when Chaffetz assumed Hillary Clinton was on track to win, he said Congress had no choice but to carefully investigate a president's finances."If you're going to run and try to become the president of the United States, you're going to have to open up your kimono and show everything, your tax returns, your medical records," the House Oversight Committee chairman said at the time. "You are just gonna have to do that. It's too important."And yet, it seems much less important to him now in light of the fact that Donald Trump is a Republican.If Chaffetz is looking for an excuse to justify indifference, he's going to have a hard time. As Slate's Jim Newell explained yesterday, "It's well within the jurisdiction of Chaffetz's Oversight and Government Reform Committee to examine reports of an incoming president using his official power to influence decisions affecting his international business empire. One might even say it's his job."But congressional Republicans are quite likely to conclude that Trump's business is none of their business, effectively looking the other way as Trump uses his office to advance his private-sector interests.History will not be kind.