One can only marvel at the toadyism of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) — who previously recommended gutting the ethics office — in demanding a full-scale investigation by the Justice Department inspector general into leaks but resolutely resisting any investigation into President Trump’s breached hotel lease, his conflicts of interest, his ties with Russia and his recent receipt of a trademark from China — just after reaffirming the One China policy — which is indisputably an “emolument” from a foreign government.
In their letter the congressmen proclaimed: “The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is the principal oversight committee of the House of Representatives and may ‘at any time’ investigate ‘any matter’ as set forth in House Rule X.” (For the Oversight Committee Rule X specifies that its jurisdiction includes such matters as “Federal civil service, including intergovernmental personnel; and the status of officers and employees of the United States, including their compensation, classification, and retirement . . . . [And] overall economy, efficiency, and management of government operations and activities.” It also includes “Government management and accounting measures generally.” But in Chaffetz’s mind, the one thing it does not include is any meaningful oversight of a Republican administration.
In response to this farcical dereliction of duty, ranking Democrat Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.) said in a written statement, “Chairman Chaffetz appears to be taking his marching orders directly from President Trump’s tweet yesterday — instead of investigating General Flynn’s lies and his troubling ties with Russia, he chose to target those who brought them to light.” Cummings added: “Congress should be doing independent oversight of the Executive Branch and protecting whistleblowers, not running interference while the White House conceals their abuses and misleads the American people for weeks. Chairman Chaffetz said he didn’t want to go on ‘fishing expeditions’, but that’s exactly what he’s doing here.”
Chaffetz likely won’t be interested in another foreign influence issue either — this one involving China. The Associated Press reports:
The government of China awarded U.S. President Donald Trump valuable rights to his own name this week, in the form of a 10-year trademark for construction services.–
The registration became official on Feb. 14 and was published in a trademark registration announcement on the website of China’s Trademark Office on Wednesday.
This may well be the first foreign trademark to be handed to Trump during his presidency, but is unlikely to be the last. In China alone he has 49 pending trademark applications and 77 marks already registered in his own name, most of which will come up for renewal during his term.
Critics say Trump’s global intellectual property interests could be used by foreign states as leverage over the president and may violate the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, which bars public servants from accepting anything of value from foreign governments unless explicitly approved by Congress. These concerns are particularly sharp in China, where the courts and bureaucracy reflect the will of the ruling Communist Party.
The registration this week came as a surprise win for Trump after a decade of trying — and failing — to wrest the rights to his name back from a man named Dong Wei. The abrupt turn in Trump’s bureaucratic fortunes once he declared his candidacy has raised questions about the extent to which his political status may be helping his family business.
Norman Eisen, an ethics guru who has already filed one lawsuit against the president, tells me: “I have reviewed the troubled history of Trump’s efforts to secure Chinese trademark protection in the A.P. report. I doubt the abrupt about-face by the Chinese authorities was because they suddenly determined that his legal case had merit. It appears instead to be a not very subtle effort to influence him by giving him a very large and very valuable gift of these trademarks.” Eisen explained: “Presents from foreign governments ‘of any kind whatever’ are of course expressly forbidden by the foreign emoluments clause. Americans would be right to wonder whether this will have any effect on Trump’s positions relative to China, including whether he can be trusted to stanch the loss of American jobs to that country.”
In contrast with Senate Republicans, who seem to have perked up and see legitimate grounds for at least investigating Trump’s Russia ties, Chaffetz remains a Trump enabler, blocking essential investigation of raging scandals. So long as the Senate plunges ahead, however, the real damage here is to Chaffetz, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and the GOP majority. If the GOP won’t do basic oversight on the biggest scandal to hit the White House in decades, why not put the Democrats in charge?