The Government Accountability Office (GAO), which is an independent watchdog and investigation unit of Congress, has opened a review of how Donald Trump and Mike Pence spent taxpayer money during the post-election transition to becoming President and Vice President, and how much private financing was collected.
The review will look into how transition funds provided by the General Services Administration (GSA) were spent, and how much of the money raised and spent was reported as required by the Office of Government Ethics (OGE).
The review will also examine what “information and services” were tied to speaking with other governments, according to The Hill, which apparently could include contacts with Russia and other foreign powers.
The GAO is acting after it was sent a letter at the end of last year by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MASS) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) asking for a probe that would include financial conflicts of interest, the use of taxpayer money and improper conversations with foreign leaders.
“We have significant questions about the extent to which Mr. Trump’s conflicts of interest and other problems are affecting his transition are compromising the use of taxpayer funds,” they wrote in the letter to the GAO last November.
The letter also raised the issue of Trump’s extensive business interests and seeks information on whether the President properly separated himself from his business empire as he promised – which he hasn’t. It also seeks information on whether conversations Trump had with foreign leaders on his personal cell phone violated security regulations.
“Mr. Trump’s conflicts of interest raise questions about the taxpayer-funded expenditures associated with the transition,” the two wrote. For example, Trump charged the Secret Service $1.6 million for flights that were on planes that he owned.
The letter states that foreign leaders, who had difficulty reaching Trump, talked to him on his personal cellphone, raising concerns about security.
The GAO met with the Senators’ staff about this in February but has just confirmed it is doing a review, which it expects to produce some revelations by June.
The things the GAO will focus on, according to the letter announcing the review, are what laws may have been broken, whether the transition followed GAO processes for money management, transition team fundraising, conflicts of interest and whether the rules for communication with foreign governments was followed. ,
The GAO will also compare Trump and Pence’s transition to what was done under President’s Barack Obama in 2009 and George W. Bush in 2001.
What is clear is that huge amounts of outside money have fueled Trump’s campaign and the transition, leading to some of those wealthy donors becoming members of his administration or close advisors.
The troubling questions about Russia’s involvement in the campaign, and possibly the transition, also deserve a serious look under the GAO’s microscope. Whatever the result of the review, it is always good to put a bright light on the behavior of those, like Trump and Pence, who clearly have a lot of things to hide.