Senator Elizabeth Warren is demanding answers about a Trump transition that she sees as in chaos. Warren, along with Maryland congressman Elijah Cummings, sent a letter on Wednesday, Nov. 23 to the comptroller general of the Government Accountability Office to request a review of the transition. They want to determine whether taxpayer money is used efficiently, and also to put Trump’s conflicts of interest under scrutiny.
“We are concerned about reports of “disarray” within a “chaotic” transition, and ask that your review address several concerns,” the Democratic lawmakers write.
Warren and Cummings note that in order to to ensure a smooth transition, the law requires that Trump and his transition team are provided with government money, via the General Services Administration. Congress has allocated $9.5 million for the task. The funds are meant to be used for “staff compensation, office space, travel, and communication” among others. The lawmakers underline that Secret Service protection for the president-elect is also paid by taxpayers, and say they are concerned about how this money is being spent:
During the early months of the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump charged the Secret Service $1.6 million for flights, with “the government effectively paying him” because he owned the airline. During the transition, which is based at Trump Tower in New York City, Mr. Trump is traveling back and forth from New York to Washington, DC, using his airline. There is no transparency with regard to transition expenditures, raising additional questions about how taxpayer funds may be flowing into Mr. Trump’s pockets.
Citing numerous press reports, the two lawmakers outline many of Trump’s potential conflicts of interest.”At this point, it is not clear if the line between Mr. Trump’s Presidency and his and business ventures is blurred-or entirely nonexistent,” they write. They also raise concerns about issues such as the transition team’s communication with foreign leaders, giving a controversial meeting with the Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe in Trump Tower as an example of a breach of protocol and custom. Here are the questions they pose to the Gene Dodaro, the comptroller and director of the Government Accountability Office:
1. To what extent have Mr. Trump’s conflicts of interest affected his presidential transition? What is the impact and potential impact of his refusal to set up a qualified blind trust to prevent conflicts of interest? Has Mr. Trump conducted Trump Organization business during the transition? Is there transparency with regard to his activity with his business interests? Have his conflicts potentially affected the policy positions of his new Administration? Have his family members maintained appropriate distance between the business of the Trump Organization and the presidential transition? How have Mr. Trump’s actions to prevent conflicts compared to actions taken by previous presidents?
2. Has the Trump transition used taxpayer dollars efficiently and effectively? Have funds from the transition or associated with the transition (such as reimbursements from the Secret Service) gone to companies owned by Mr. Trump? If so, how much was the total amount paid to Mr. Trump’s business entities? Have the payments been fair and reasonable?
3. Has the transition appropriately followed rules, protocol, and precedent for communicating with foreign governments? Have telephonic, electronic, and any other communications by Mr. Trump and other transition members followed appropriate security procedures?
4. Has the “disarray” within Mr. Trump’s transition team affected his ability to effectively serve the American public beginning on January 20, 2017?
Here’s the full letter: