JUST IN: Democrats file letter targeted at Trump’s businesses

While President Donald Trump spends much of August on what he calls a “working vacation” at his New Jersey golf club, Democratic lawmakers want to know how much money the federal government is spending at his for-profit properties.

In a letter addressed to Elaine Duke, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday demanded that she fork over information about the department’s Trump-related spending by Aug. 25.

“The American people deserve to know how their tax dollars are spent, including the amount of federal funds that are being provided to private businesses owned by the president and the purposes of these expenditures,” according to the letter. A similar version was sent to all Cabinet secretaries.

The lawmakers want documents regarding any payments the departments have made to the Trump Organization or any business in which the Trump organization has an ownership stake.

The Associated Press has been keeping count of how many times President Trump has visited his own properties, and says that number is up to 48 times since his inauguration, including his current trip, and it’s been reported he’s planning to visit New York City next week. While he’s there, he may well add to that number when he stops by his longtime home in Trump Tower.

In the past, presidents typically maintained and visited their personal residences while in office. For instance, George W. Bush always kept his ranch in Crawford, Texas, and Barack Obama never gave up his Chicago house while he was in office.

The difference with Trump is that his residences are also part of his family business. This means that when the State Department and Department of Homeland Security spend money to move and protect the president around his own properties, some of that money will be paid to the Trump Organization, and this makes Democrats livid.

Trump turned over company leadership to his adult sons and a senior business executive, but he did not divest his interests, as previous presidents have done. The trust in which he placed his business assets includes a clause that allows him to withdraw money whenever he wants, which also incenses his critics.

The Democratic Oversight references reports about the State Department booking rooms at a new Trump International Hotel in Vancouver, where sons Don Jr. and Eric stayed during its grand opening. They also want to know how much it cost for the Defense Department and Homeland Security to rent space at Trump Tower while First Lady Melania Trump and 11-year-old Barron lived there until the end of the school year.

“President Trump also makes frequent trips to properties he owns, and these trips may result in U.S. taxpayers’ money flowing into President Trump’s pockets,” the committee stated in its letter.

Trump, his family and his staff had to temporarily vacate the West Wing so that workers could replace the mansion’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. He issued a tweet about the move, stating: “Working in Bedminster, N.J., as long planned construction is being done at the White House. This is not a vacation – meetings and calls!” 

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