Thursday, February 9, 2017


TO: Representative Gary Palmer, Alabama 6th Congressional district

On January 9th, Rep Jason Chaffetz, the chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (on which you sit), said the Committee will continue to investigate Hillary Clinton's private email server. (See CNN story here.)

As to President Trump's potential business conflicts, Rep. Chaffetz reportedly noted that the law‎ exempts the president of the United States, and called the push from Democrats to launch a committee investigation on Trump's business ties "premature at best." (See CNN story here.)

I tweeted you yesterday asking whether you thought President Trump is "faithfully" executing the office of President when he tweets in favor of Ivanka and against Nordstrom in connection with the business relationship of Ivanka and Nordstrom. See Ivanka and Nordstrom.

The potential problems that President Trump's businesses pose for his being able to fulfill his constitutional oath to "faithfully" execute the office of the President have been obvious since November.  Have you given any consideration to them as I requested in Priority questions for AL legislative delegation?

I don't know whether Rep. Chaffetz still thinks that investigation into the Trump businesses is "premature at best," but I think urgency is getting to be needed.

Urgency is needed because so much about President Trump is novel, questionable developments are rapidly occurring and revealing new elements of concern, and there is an expanding amount of information needed to be obtained, understood and evaluated by the Committee. If the Committee ultimately decides that corrective action needs to be taken against President Trump, that should be decided sooner rather than later.

It is up to you and other members of the Oversight Committee to consider and judge the novel situation presented by President Trump.

Quite simply the country has never had an outsider businessman becoming President, and bringing along a very large business organization, which operates domestically and in many foreign countries.

Some of the possible problems associated with the the novel situation of President Trump's businesses have been identified.

The Democrats on the Oversight Commitee sent a seven page letter to Chairman Chaffetz on November 28, 2016, which gave a starting list of problems.

On January 11th, President-Elect Trump had a press conference in which he set out what he was going to do to separate himself from his businesses. This plan has received a large amount of criticism as not doing enough, and the matter is far from resolved. After he took office on January 20th, lawsuits were started against President Trump under the emoluments clause.

While some of the possible problems have been discerned, others are being learned only as time goes by.

Further, President Trump's nature and style have the potential of tremendously exacerbating problems. His tweeting regarding Ivanka and Nordstrom has resulted in his taking up cudgels for the personal interests of Ivanka and his family and stoking more divisive battle between his supporters and opponents who are leaping into the fray.

This is a mess, it is detrimental to the country, and it is almost certain to get worse.

To me, it seems that the Oversight and Government Reform Committee has a responsibility to not duck the mess, and to take up the problems that President Trump and his businesses are creating for the country.

You and the other Republicans on the Oversight Committee are going to have to decide: Are you going to shirk your responsibility by not addressing the problems, or are you going to discharge your responsibility and investigate, evaluate and judge the novel situation of President Trump and his businesses.

Please keep in mind these important questions:

1. What is the relationship between the constitutional oath of office to "faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States" and the exemption for the President that is provided in the "conflicts of interest" statute? What does the word "faithfully" mean in the constitutional oath of office? Can President Trump do anything he wants in service of the interests of his businesses and his family, or does the word "faithfully" limit what President Trump can do?

2. If the word "faithfully" limits what President Trump can do, do you think President Trump understands that?

3. What is the role of Congress in overseeing whether the President is "faithfully" executing his office? Can Congress impeach the President if it determines that the President has failed to faithfully execute his office? What if the President has one view of what "faithfully" means, and Congress has a differing view?

If the Oversight and Government Reform Committee decides to investigate, evaluate and judge the situation of President Trump and his businesses, the Committee should consider whether censure of the President by the House of Representatives would be an appropriate action to take if the Committee thinks corrective action by Congress is called for.

Update 2/10/17. See Censure (supplement).

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