The House Oversight Committee has launched an investigation into whether President Trump improperly benefited financially from Vice President Pence’s stay this week at a Trump golf resort while on a taxpayer-funded, official trip to Ireland.
Pence defended that decision — which required him to fly to Dublin and back on Air Force Two — by saying that he wanted to visit Doonbeg so that he could have dinner with his family at a pub there owned by a distant cousin.
“The Committee does not believe that U.S. taxpayer funds should be used to personally enrich President Trump, his family, and his companies,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) wrote in a letter Thursday to Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, seeking documents with itemized costs of the trip and communications about its planning.
Similar letters were sent to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney; Secret Service Director James M. Murray; and chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg. The letter to Weisselberg sought information on revenue generated for Trump’s company from Pence’s trip, including room rates charged to Pence and his staff.
In his letters, Cummings said the committee is investigating “possible conflicts of interest and waste of taxpayer funds,” as well as “whether these expenses may have violated the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which provides that the President may receive a salary during his tenure in office, but that ‘he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.’ ”
While critics have charged that Trump is violating that provision when his hotels take payments from the federal government, Trump says there is no violation if the government is only paying him for services rendered.
The investigation is the latest by House Democrats as they weigh whether to launch impeachment proceedings against Trump. Trump’s potential enrichment while in office has become an inviting target, in addition to possible obstruction of the special counsel’s probe into Russian election interference and hush-money payments to women who alleged earlier affairs with the president.
On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee also sent letters to the White House and the Secret Service seeking information related to Trump’s promotion of the Trump National Doral Miami as a possible venue to host the next gathering of world leaders known as the Group of Seven summit — an investigation previously announced by the panel.
“Potential violations of the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution are of grave concern to the Committee as it considers whether to recommend articles of impeachment,” wrote Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the committee’s chairman, and Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), a subcommittee chairman.
While two of Trump’s sons have taken over day-to-day control of the Trump Organization, the president still maintains ownership of the company.
White House officials have offered conflicting accounts about the genesis of Pence’s stay at Trump’s family-owned property in Ireland.
Short, his chief of staff, told reporters that Trump himself had suggested that Pence’s team stay there after hearing about Pence’s Ireland trip. Pence’s office later clarified that “at no time did the President direct our office to stay at his Doonbeg resort.”
The next day Trump denied any involvement in the decision.
“I had no involvement, other than it’s a great place,” Trump said. “It wasn’t my idea for Mike to go there.”
Pence had visited Doonbeg in 2013, before Trump was president. Pence’s staff said the future vice president stayed at the Doonbeg resort on that visit, too, months before Trump bought it.
“If you have a chance to get to Doonbeg, you’ll find it’s a fairly small place, and the opportunity to stay at the Trump National in Doonbeg, to accommodate the unique footprint that comes with our security detail and other personnel, made it logical,” Pence said at a news conference Tuesday outside the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Dublin.
In his letters, Cummings noted that “[r]eports indicate that [Trump’s] property has been a problematic investment for the Trump Organization and has failed to turn a profit in years.”
Trump bought the Doonbeg course out of foreclosure in 2014, paying $11.9 million. The course then reported losing more than $1 million every year from 2014 to 2017, according to Irish corporate records.
In 2018, the course’s revenue rose slightly — up about 2 percent from $14.2 million to $14.5 million, according to Trump’s latest U.S. financial disclosures. But those disclosures do not show whether the course turned a profit, and the Irish records that would show profit or loss are not yet available.
Trump himself visited the Doonbeg golf course earlier this year, during a trip to Europe to commemorate the anniversary of the D-Day landings.
In his letter to the White House, Cummings also seeks documents related the costs of that trip to taxpayers, citing a news report that it cost $3.6 million.
David A. Fahrenthold and Robert Costa contributed to this report.