WASHINGTON –The Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee met with Donald Trump on Tuesday, agreed with the president’s request not to talk about oversight and reiterated that it’s unlikely his panel will investigate the businessman’s sprawling empire.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah told reporters that before he even sat down in the Oval Office, “The president said, ‘No oversight. You can’t talk about anything that has to do with oversight,”’ Chaffetz responded: “Fair enough.”
At a briefing at his Capitol office following the 30-minute meeting with Trump, Chaffetz said he is unlikely to grant requests by Democrats to investigate possible conflicts of interest involving Trump’s businesses.
Chaffetz had promised before the election that he would investigate Democrat Hillary Clinton for years.
The congressman insisted his committee will pursue a “vigorous oversight agenda” under an all-Republican government.
“I think on the surface it’s tougher to do oversight when it’s your own party, but you have a job to do,” Chaffetz said. “My job is not to be the president’s cheerleader, but I do want to fix things. And there are a lot of broken things. And there’s always somebody doing something stupid somewhere.”
Trump and his team “understand that, I think,” Chaffetz said. “I think it’s a good message (for Trump) to say ‘I’m not going to slow you down. I’m not going to put the brakes on.’ “
Democrats have called for investigations into Trump’s financial ties with foreign businesses and governments, as well as his lease with the U.S. government for a luxury hotel near the White House.
Chaffetz said he has questions for the General Services Administration about the Trump organization’s contract to run the hotel at the Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue, but said, “the president is exempt under Section 208” of the U.S. criminal code from conflict of interest laws.
“The Democrats can flail and complain and run around with their heads cut off, but the reality is he’s exempt from this,” Chaffetz said.
Chaffetz said he briefed Trump on a number of issues important to him, including former President Barack Obama’s designation of the Bears Ears national monument in Utah, which Chaffetz and other Utah officials oppose. The men also discussed postal reform, tax reform and construction and security of U.S. embassies abroad.