Rep. Elijah Cummings, who will soon chair the House Oversight Committee, said Democrats plan to ask the Trump Organization for records related to the company’s talks with developers in the Dominican Republic because of concerns one of the president’s sons attempted to discuss a deal after his father’s inauguration , he told ABC News. The conversation could hint to a potential violation of the ethics rules that deal with the president’s business dealings.
The comment followed a report Monday by ABC that Eric Trump made a visit to the island 16 days after Trump’s inauguration to meet with developers. Ten years ago, the Trump Organization abandoned a plan there to develop dozens of luxury properties, blaming the developers, who they sued for fraud. In 2017, after Eric Trump’s visit, the same developers announced they were “working with the Trump Organization in the future phases of the project.” There were no formal announcements about the organization’s return to the Dominican Republic.
Concerns that the Trump Organization was quietly negotiating with the local developers were bolstered when a non-profit group dispatched an undercover investigator to pose as a potential buyer and ask about the deal at the Cap Cana resort on the island. A sales agent there was recorded telling the investigator that the Trump Organization was developing a condominium at a new beachfront location—a new phase of the original deal.
The Trump Organization has called the report false and said it is not pursuing any new development deals. “In 2007, the company entered into a license agreement with a local developer for a multi-component real estate development project to be built over several years,” the company said in a statement. “Though there have been some discussions about starting the next phase of the development, there are no plans in place at this time.”
As a president-elect, Trump vowed that his company would make no new foreign deals while he was president. Critics of the president have complained that he has not followed precedent or followed through on promises to avoid potential conflicts of interest, as he did not fully divest from his business interests. (He placed his sons in charge of running the business but left it under his ownership). The ethical questions around Trump’s potential financial stake in international dealings have surfaced again and again. The emoluments clause, which bars the president from receiving gifts from foreign governments, and which some critics have interpreted to mean a ban on receiving any payment from a foreign government, has been cited to contend Trump’s payments from an organization that receives cash from foreign, state-owned corporations are unethical.
“The American people have the right to know if the President is working in his own personal best interest to support his pocket book, or whether he is working in theirs,” Cummings told ABC. When his party takes control of the House in January, according to Cummings, it will request the related records within the first few weeks.