House Republicans on Tuesday shielded President Donald Trump from disclosure of his potential business conflicts, ethical violations, and ties to Russia by voting down Democratic N.Y. Rep. Jerry Nadler's resolution of inquiry that would have required the Department of Justice to release to Congress documents relating to those matters.
It was defeated 18-16 along party lines. With the committee marking it unfavorable, the resolution will not be taken up by the full chamber.
Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) declared of its defeat: "I believe that this resolution is unnecessary, premature, and not the best way for this Committee or the House to conduct oversight over the issues covered by the resolution."
Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn, however, argued that the "vote follows a disturbing trend by many in Congress to stonewall their constituents who are demanding answers to the deeply disturbing facts that have already emerged concerning the relationship between the Russian government and President Trump, his campaign, and his administration."
Still, Politico writes that
[t]hough Republicans voted down the measure, the vote itself was a partial victory for Democrats, who forced many of the committee's 23 Republicans into the uncomfortable position of rejecting a call for greater oversight of Trump's potential conflicts.
Although not held by GOP members of the committee, support for the resolution was made clear Tuesday with a packed hearing and the delivery of hundreds of thousands of petition signatures. On Monday, progressive groups also urged constituents to call their Representatives and demand they support the resolution.
Explaining the need for his resolution, Nadler said Tuesday during debate that "each day, more questions arise concerning President Trump's foreign business entanglements and his inexplicably cozy relationship with Russia."
Regarding what he described as Trump's "breathtaking web of business entanglements," Nadler said that among the questions that still demand explanation are:
- Just blocks away from the White House sits the Trump International Hotel, on which the President is both the leaseholder, through the General Services Administration, and the lessee, through the Trump Organization. How does this not represent a clear conflict of interest?
- How much of the hundreds of millions of dollars in debt on Mr. Trump’s properties, at home and abroad, does he owe to foreign government entities, like the Bank of China, and what sort of leverage over the United States does that provide to those governments?
And with regard to "the troubling ties between Russia and President Trump," Nadler said further questions remain, such as:
- We know that top Trump aides were in communication with senior Russian intelligence officials over the course of the campaign. What did they discuss?
- What did White House Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, say to the FBI to get them to downplay the seriousness of these charges? Did he violate any laws by doing so?
Progressive advocacy group Working Families Party, which backed Nadler's probe, said in response to the markup: "Sadly, pretending conflicts of interest do not exist will not make it so."
"The public deserves to know the truth about the President, and we must not stop until we get these answers," Nadler said.
Though Nadler's resolution of inquiry failed (the day after House Republicans defeated a measure to force the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to reveal Trump's tax returns), the obscure parliamentary tool may become one Democrats harness often during this administration.
Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D-Mass.) on Monday filed a resolution of inquiry demanding the Department of Health and Human Services release its healthcare plans.