With Donald Trump taking a 17-day vacation from the strenuous 53 days of golfing over his first seven months “on the job,” it’s hard to think of anything he’s done as work. But while he may be spending his time obsessing over Fox & Friends and waiting for his twice daily ego massage, that doesn’t mean he’s not making money, money, money off this sweet gig.
Donald Trump’s company turned a $1.97 million profit at its opulent Trump International Hotel so far in 2017, dramatically beating its expectations and giving the first hard numbers to critics who charge that Trump is profiting from his presidency.
The Trump Organization had projected that it would lose $2.1 million during the first four months of 2017 as it established a new hotel and convention business in the nation’s capital, according to newly released federal documents.
That’s a $4 million turnaround based off Trump’s ability to collect his stay-at-my-hotel toll for access to the American government. But it’s only part of how Trump is ringing up a profit and Democrats think they have a way to find out more.
With Congress out of town in August, Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee launched an investigation Tuesday into what the federal government is spending on Trump properties.
The goal of the investigation is to go through all government agencies, looking for funds spent at Trump-owned facilities. That includes stays at hotels, conferences in rooms rented from Trump, grants and benefits awarded to Trump companies, and the cost of security for events at Trump locations.
If Democrats can get this information — and it's a big if — it could be the first time someone is able to pin down how much money related to Trump's day job is going to his businesses. The federal government is the largest employer in the country. It employs nearly 3 million people, a number of whom travel often.
It’s a “big if” especially because Trump has already ordered agencies to ignore any oversight requests coming from Democrats.
The White House is telling federal agencies to blow off Democratic lawmakers' oversight requests, as Republicans fear the information could be weaponized against President Donald Trump.
Of course, the whole point in having the agencies be answerable to Congress is to impose checks and balances—which, of necessity, means that some of the information collected might come back to bite the executive branch. But … checks and balances be damned.
So far Trump has maintained a mini-Andrew Jackson “let them enforce it” policy toward congressional requests and Republicans in Congress have backed Trump’s play. Without Republicans signing on to turn the requests Trump has told the agencies to ignore into subpoenas that they might feel slightly more compelled to answer, Democrats are unlikely to collect so much as a dinner tab.
However, there may be a way out of the gridlock, and it’s part of why Democrats have pushed these requests during the August vacation.
Committee Democrats said that if they don't receive information by the end of August, they will consider using a little-known committee rule that allows at least seven members to force agencies to submit to their request. At least 18 signed onto the letter.
That’s good in theory. However, it would likely only lead to yet another Constitutional confrontation … something that has moved from the rare to all-to-common category over the last seven months.