WASHINGTON ― The main independent investigative arm of Congress will dig into whether President Donald Trump has set up proper security precautions at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and if his hotel business is turning over profits received from foreign governments, as he promised.
The statement of investigation by the Government Accountability Office last week came in response to a Feb. 16 request from four Democratic lawmakers: Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) and Tom Udall (N.M.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.).
The GAO will address four issues about the president and his properties: It will examine the adequacy of the measures used to protect classified material and provide secure communications for the president and his staff at Mar-a-Lago. It will consider what security screening procedures the resort has implemented for members and their guests when the president is visiting. It will look into how the Secret Service and the Department of Defense are ensuring that the charges incurred on trips to Mar-a-Lago are “fair and reasonable.” And it will investigate whether Trump’s hotels are sending to the U.S. Treasury any profits from foreign government customers.
The letter from the lawmakers came after Trump was photographed on an outdoor patio at Mar-a-Lago engaged in intense discussion with the Japanese president and their national security aides about how to respond to a North Korean missile test. At least one Mar-a-Lago member posted pictures of the open-air discussions to Facebook.
“We are deeply concerned by recent reports that the President, his staff, and the Japanese Prime Minister discussed national security matters on ‘full view to fellow diners,’ and reviewed potentially sensitive national security material in apparent violation of security protocols,” the four lawmakers wrote to the GAO in February. “In addition, we are concerned about the expenditure of taxpayer funds at Mar-a-Lago by the Secret Service and other government officials associated with the President.”
Trump has traveled to his resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on six of the 10 weekends that he has been president. He also traveled to his golf course in Northern Virginia this past Saturday and Sunday.
The president has similarly visited his hotel in Washington, D.C., on multiple occasions since his inauguration. The hotel has become a hot spot for those seeking to curry favor. After Trump’s election, management held an event to sell foreign dignitaries on staying at the hotel as a way to make a good impression with the incoming administration.
Ethics experts and law professors have pointed out that payments from foreign governments to the president are forbidden under the Constitution’s emoluments clause. When Trump announced that he would maintain ownership of his business during his term in office, a move without modern presidential precedent, he vowed to turn over any profits from foreign governments to try to assuage those constitutional concerns.
On Friday, Sens. Udall, Whitehouse, Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) introduced legislation that would require the White House to maintain and publish a visitors log for Mar-a-Lago.