President Donald Trump is making “a lot of money” off his job leading the nation, the new Democratic chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee said as the panel gears up for possible probes into the chief executive and his administration.
“It’s not OK,” Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said in an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” Sunday, according to a transcript provided in advance by the network.
The issue is whether Trump is benefiting through increased revenue at his hotels, golf courses and other business ventures, and the public ought to know whether the president is making a deal “in his self-interest or that of the country” -- including those that might involve foreign interests, Cummings said.
The White House said in response the claims are “completely baseless, but we cannot comment further about ongoing litigation,” according to CBS.
The attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit accusing Trump of violating the U.S. Constitution by holding a financial interest in his Washington hotel. In another suit, almost 200 Democratic members of Congress sued to block Trump from taking any money from foreign states at his global businesses without getting Congressional approval first.
Trump’s Business Ties and the Problem With Emoluments: QuickTake
The interview comes as Cummings, 67, a 13-term House lawmaker, is taking the reins at the only House panel with unlimited jurisdiction and subpoena power -- making him one of the most powerful chairmen under the chamber’s new Democratic leadership.
His staff has already sent out 51 letters on matters including Trump’s business dealings and the use of private jets by cabinet members that could yield full-blown investigations, according to the CBS story.
“There’s so much,” Cummings said. “We’ve got to hit the ground, not running, but flying.”
One of the panel’s first hearings will feature Feb. 7 testimony from Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney and “fixer,” who’s pleaded guilty to charges including campaign finance violations for making hush-money payments to two women who claimed past affairs with Trump.
The president said in a Fox News interview on Saturday that he wasn’t worried about Cohen’s appearance. Trump suggested that Cohen “should give information maybe on his father-in-law because that’s the one that people want to look at.”
Trump’s comments prompted a statement on Sunday from Cummings, Representative Adam Schiff of California and Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York -- chairmen of the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees, respectively -- warning about attempts to intimidate or pressure a witness not to provide testimony to Congress.
“The President should make no statement or take any action to obstruct Congress’ independent oversight and investigative efforts, including by seeking to discourage any witness from testifying in response to a duly authorized request from Congress,” the lawmakers said in the statement.
In the “60 Minutes” interview, Cummings said he expects Republicans will try to put obstacles in front of what he might investigate and that court action is likely if the administration doesn’t respond to subpoenas or invokes executive privilege.
The “one big elephant” is Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Cummings said. Asked whether Republicans will try to suppress Muller’s report, Cummings said, “I hope not. But that’s a possibility.”
“I want whatever it is, for the Congress to have it, and I want the public to have it, so that everybody can make a judgment,” he said.
Cummings also said he’s been amazed at Trump’s untruthfulness during his first two years in office, which he said raises difficult questions about the relationship the president can have with lawmakers.
“I don’t think the other presidents called a lie the truth and the truth a lie,” he said. “I’m going to tell you, that’s what makes the relationship so difficult. It’s hard to trust.”