Queens Congressman Gregory Meeks argued today that, even though House Democrats lack the power to subpoena President-elect Donald Trump over his potential conflicts of interest, they can and should use their posts to pressure him to divulge information about his companies’ dealings.
Last week, the New York Times asked Trump in a sit-down interview at their office about his mixing of personal financial interests with his presidency, citing the fact that he temporarily halted his transition work to meet with three Indian business partners, exerted pressure on British and Argentinian politicians to accommodate his business concerns in their nations and gathered diplomats at his new hotel in Washington D.C. The incoming commander-in-chief brushed off the concern, claiming falsely that the “president can’t have a conflict of interest.”
Meeks promised that the Democratic minority would convene informal hearings and tour the nation in order to draw public attention to potential malfeasance on Trump’s part—saying that they “intend on utilizing those voices as we move forward.”
“Though we may not have the power to subpoena individuals, I’m sure that there will be some that would be willing to come at our request to testify at those hearings,” Meeks, a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton‘s candidacy, told CNNMoney’s Cristina Alesci today. “And of course as a member of Congress, we always have the power of the bully pulpit, and we intend on utilizing that power.”
Meeks, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee who has served as a prosecutor and has been the subject of ethics probes, predicted that Republican committee chairs will work to protect Trump. But the out-of-power Democrats can still petition various agencies asking them to provide the results of investigations and report back to them what they find and are investigating.
Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee sent a letter to Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz, the committee’s GOP chairman, today noting that it has now been two weeks since ranking Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland wrote him requesting that the committee immediately start reviewing Trump’s financial arrangements to identify and protect against conflicts of interest.
“If he refuses, then we in Congress must fulfill our own responsibilities by closely examining the Constitutional and statutory provisions that govern Mr. Trump’s actions, determining whether his approach meets these standards, and proposing appropriate reforms,” they wrote.
And although some of the agencies will be headed by the president-elect’s appointees, Meeks said that they are still answerable to Congress—also pointing out that midterm elections are “just two short years away” for the House of Representatives and various Senate seats and “just four short years away” for the next presidential election.
“Well a number of them will be but still, they are accountable to all members of Congress and so they still have to give as a reply as to what they are or are not doing and what they’re finding and if they’re not doing an investigation as to why,” Meeks continued. “And then it is up to us to then make sure that the American public knows what’s going on.”
Trump, for his part, has sought to shift responsibility by alleging that the news media is responsible for making a big deal about his various business interests.
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.