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tv   House Oversight Hearing on Document Production by the Trump Administration...  CSPAN  August 2, 2019 5:17pm-5:48pm EDT

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just assume that we're speaking from, you know, the same voice, okay. >> absolutely. >> and thank you all for your testimony. >> i thank you the gentleman. we're going to have to go into recess because one vote, procedural vote and we will come back as soon as possible. if mr. raskin comes back before us he is authorized to take the chair. and gavel us back into session. we stand in recess.
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welcome back to the hearing. i want to thank the witnesses for their patience. and i will now recognize myself for a second right now of questioning. let's see. i want to go back to the question of the domestic emoluments claus mr. borden. we talked about the foreign emolumen emoluments claus which was an attempt to guarantee the undivided loyalty of the president, and all members of congress, to the american people, and not to foreign powers. and that's why there was this absolute prohibition on payments
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of any kind whatever coming from foreign governments. and so that's why we're very concerned to get as much information from the gsa about whatever you know and whatever you can find out about foreign governments using the trump hotel for business, because of the president's continuing business ownership interest in the trump hotel. but the domestic emoluments claus limits the president to his salary in office. we can't increase or reduce it. but also it says the president cannot receive any other payments from the u.s. government or from any of the individual united states. and yet we have reports that the gsa gave the hotel $534,000 in federal credit for maintaining the historic clock tower. is that correct in can i confirm
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that with. >> i'd have to get the answer in wrag to you. i don't know the numbers. i know there is an appropriating where they provide some services for the clock tower, cleaning services. but i'm speaking off of memory on this. i'll get you an answer. >> without pinning you down right now -- although i would love the accurate information later. but without pinning you down on the number you can confirm that the gsa does have an arrangement in which it makes a payment to the hotel for keeping up the clock tower which is on the building? >> i'm working off a dim memory here. i will get that answer in writing. but my recollection is trfs an appropriating where some services like cleaning are provided to the clock tower. yes we are paying for that. >> in the first months of the trump administration, the only period where we have detailed accurate information at all from the federal government, taxpayers funned massive payments to the trump properties such as the trump hotel in d.c., the department of defense spend
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$147379.50 on trump properties, including the trump hotel in washington. the commerce department spent almost $4,000 primarily at the trump hotel in the first few months alone. we don't know how much the department of commerce spent after that period of time. the american people have a right to know how much is being spent there. and congress on before of the american people has a right to obtain this information because we have to defend the integrity of the business practices of the government. nbc has reported that $56,000 has been spent by the department of defense, the department of agriculture and the gsa itself at the hotel. does the gsa actually occupy rooms at the hotel for business purposes? >> i'd have to check on the facts on that. with you we often get tagged for
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spending that's not ours you because it goes that our programs like fed rooms. just in general on federal employees staying at the hotel. as long as it fits in the per deem there is in prohibition on that. >> what legal authority or opinion are you relying on at gsa for continuing to allow federal agencies and departments to spend money at the hotel or foreign governments to aspen money at the hole hotel? >> i don't believe we have any authority over other agencies or foreign governments where they choose to stay. >> i'm sorry. i meant legal authority in the sense what have precedent or opinion or what legal opinion are you basing your awe essence to the practices on. >> i'm not aware of a provision in the lease beyond the one that
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you mentioned in your previous statement that we have already sort of been discussed. but the agency mass made a determination that the tenant is in compliance with that provision. >> wait, that provision says no government official can profit, benefit in any which from the hotel. is that not right. >> i don't want to characterize what the provision does or doesn't mean. but it -- there was a legal opinion discussed. >> can you read it to -- can you read it to us? do you have it. >> might take me a few minutes to -- actually i don't think that in the binder. >> maybe i can have someone hand it to me. but i understood it to be completely clear and up unambiguous. crystal clear that neither an official of the u.s. government, an elected official of the u.s. government nor elected official in the district of columbia could benefit in any way from the lease. the gsa's position i think during the obama administration was that this would prevent the
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president or any other elected official from deriving profits from the hotel and that position apparently changed with the new administration. is that right? >> to my knowledge there wasn't any official gsa position on that provision in the lease. the legal analysis that was done on that provision in the lease and is discussed in the inspector general report hinged on the admit to language in that provision. so it was a distinction between a continuing lease versus being entered into a lease, the admit to language i believe in that provision. and i'm a lawyer by education. but i'm not serving as a lure for the agency. >> i got you. well the inspector general of the gs. a raised profound questions about in. in other words, he saw it as a prohibition on the president being able to collect money from the trump lease. i mean, look, the common sense
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perception of in is simply that the president as president of the united states who oversees the gsa is acting as the landlord but then on the other side the president is acting as the tenant. so, look, the purpose of the domestic emoluments claus was to say the president has one way to make money off his tenure as president which is his salary. that's it. you're not getting extra money from the defense department and the commerce department and the gsa and state department. yet it appears that we're violating that. the purpose of the foreign emoluments claus was to guarantee the independence of the president so he would be zealously devoted to the american people, not to the united arab emirates or saudi arabia or turkey or azerbaijan or somebody else who decides to spend $50 or $100,000 at the hotel. so i -- i guess what i'm troubled about is that we have is a sense of urgency about getting to the bottom of this.
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we -- the chairman of the committee sent on april 12th, 2019, to emily murphy, the administrator at gsa, a letter asking for a whole lot of stuff that we haven't gotten backy yet. for example, all documents referring or relating to mazers usa llp related to the old post office. why? because when the president acting as a businessman made his deal for the old post office, mazers had to present all of the documents reflecting the financial condition of his company. and where he is getting his money from, who he is doing business and so on. we want the documents but we haven't gotten them. do you know why those haven't been produced? >> so you're referring to the documents that -- before the lease was initiated,
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establishing sort of financial whe wherewithal and so fofgt. >> exactly. >> we have that request from the committee. there are also confidentiality provisions regarding that provisions with you we are willing to work with the committee and see who accommodate that. >> you understand when the congress makes a request for documents from anybody in the country, everybody's first instinct is to say we stamped it conversation we got a blue rubber stamp and put it in the blue ink and stamped it confidential. what does it mean to us? we're the congress of the united states. representing the american people. so everybody has a duty to present documents and witnesses that are being requested by congress unless there is some kind of legal immunity that's been recognized by the supreme court. so i think that stamping a document confidential is -- is beside the point from the
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standpoint of our wanting to see it it. s in a lease that relates to the u.s. government and it relates to the constitutional powers of congress and it relates to prohibitions on money going to the president of the united states. so you know, i'm not detecting in your answer any intention to give us this stuff. is that right? >> i think -- i think that's wrong. first thing i want to say in general about $55 billion in contracts flow through gsa and we have a lot of confidential financial information where we make arrangements to protect that information for our business partners. and that's one of the reasons they are willing to do business with us. however, we are not mieding behind those. and we are actively working with the committee and working on ways we can accommodate the committee's interest in that. i would point out it's been mentioned that i believe some of the monthly financial summaries had been produced earlier. and they showed up in "the new
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york times" shortly there after. >> so when you say you want to work with the committee, what exactly does that mean? in other words that you do want to produce those financial documents or you -- i mean, i guess what i'm saying is where is the blockade. where is the blockage happening because gsa had no problems turning over those materials before. now there's a problem turning it over. is it a problem in gsa, the white house? is it a problem with -- is it it a problem with trump the president, trump the businessman, a problem with the trump hotel? where is the black blockage coming from us obtaining the mazers document. >> these are agency decisions. >> yeah. >> and we're trying to treat them -- and it's obviously a unique situation but we are trying to treat them the way we treat any other kchgs business documents the agency holds. to anticipates your yerl earlier question which i don't think i got to. the accommodation process, which the number of cases have
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referred to, ises a process where the two co-equal branches of governmentwork through in a regulate mitt interests they are both trying to protect. >> yeah. i see it a little bit differently. we are the law making branch of government. we represent the people. the president's job is to take care the laws are faithfully executed, not thwart warted, circumvented, violated. as the district court found in the mazers case, upholding in committee's power to obtain documents, if this body has the power to impeach the president, which we do, we have by definition all of the subsidiary power to get any information we need in order to investigate the president. and i think that that logical silo jims is inskaebl. the president doesn't have the power to impeach gregs. we have the power to impeach the
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president. we're not co-equal in that. weer the law making authority. we pass laws the president's job is to take care the laws are faithfully executed. you know, i wish there were some way we could break the log jam, because, you know, i have seen this. and i think it's frustrating to members on both sides of the aisle where people will come from an agency or department and say we are working on it and so on you don't hear anything two or three months they get tauld are called back and they say we're working on it cooperating. it looks like a shell game to everybody else. and so you know, can you just tell me -- this will be my final question along this line. what is the legal authority for gsa saying this is -- that a government lease -- a u.s. government lease for the taxpayers is confidential, and
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the representative of the american people and united states congress can't obtain access to it? what's the legal authority for that? is there a supreme court case, d.c. circuit court case, a u.s. district court case? where is that coming from? >> sir, we're not making a legal assertion about the documents. we're -- like i said, we're willing to work with the committee and try to accommodate the interests. as you know, there isn't a federal rules of oversight procedure. there is not a third party magistrate calling balls and strikes, you know, but that's not -- it's not something where you have motions and assertions and so forth we are a -- >> you do advance no legal claim that you've got an immunity from us obtaining the document. >> i'm not sitting here advancing that. that would be something for the lawyers to do. >> okay. well but on behalf of the agency, i mean i thought you just said you're not making a legal argument. >> the point i was trying to make and see the interaction between the congress --
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committee of congress and agencies of the -- entities of the executive branch and this accommodation president isn't taking place in a legal forum. it's a -- it's a negotiation between co-equal branches of government. >> okay. all right. well, you know, i would love to do whatever we can to sit down and go through the documents if you could give us a list of the documents that are. >> one thing i would like to emphasize. >> yes. >> is simply i'm not trying to not answer your questions or just keep saying accommodation over and over again which i recognize i have is that we are sincerely interested in working through ways to provide the documents to the committee. and we stay in regular communication with the committee. and we know these are a priority for you. and like i said it makes themt a priority for us. >> i would just say it's an absolute constitutional imperative for us to do our jobs having taken an oath to uphold
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and defend the constitution of the united states. we represent the eem. and revocable trust serious reports in the media that have come out in different cases that the domestic -- domestic emoluments cause is being violated frequently. the foreign government emolument claus is being violated on an almost daily basis. we have an absolute responsibility to stop that if it's the case. you hold federal office in america. it's not a money-making operation. america is a great country. if you want to go out and make money go out and make money. but if you want to be president of the united states be president of the united states your job is to collect the salary and do the people's business not your business. but our job is to make smur the constitution is being respected and the rule of law. i believe based on what i've seen which is not enough which is why we are here today. i believe based on what i've seen that the trump hotel and
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president trump are in violation of the lease provision which says no elected official can derive benefit from the lease wsh the old post office lease from the trump hotel. i believe the president is in absolute and repeat violation of the foreign government emoluments claus which provides the government can't collect payment whatever from a prince, king or foreign government. and he is in violation of the domestic emolument claus which says he is limited to salary and can't pocket money from agencies and federal departments that spend money at the truch hotel or trump office tower or mar-a-lago or all of the other places. and what we're getting here perhaps unsurprisingly but certainly unfortunately is a stone walling of the committee. so we are available 24/7. we will meet day, evening, might, whatever we need to do to
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convince you that this is information we've got to get. and obviously, you know, we're in the process where we have been rendering subpoenas. we have been holdingpeople in contempt. we know that president trump ordered everybody in the executive branch to stop cooperating with congressional investigations. and i think what you saw today was a bipartisan expression of frustration with that attitude. there is nothing illegitimate about the represent he was of the people obtaining documents that go to our constitutional duty. let me turn for a second to mr. billy. apparently you testified -- i just want to give you a chance to clear this up quickly. you testified that you were not a lawyer under oath according to information the committee has you do have a j.d. pch it's just you have a j.d. but not lawyer. you have not taken the bar is that it. >> correct. >> got you. okay. so the -- i want to go to the
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legal underpinnings for the closure of opm. and so let me come to you, miss tyson if i could. or no mr. billy, i'll come to you. how many formal legal opinions which would all be responsive to our request did opm create or use that assessed the administration's authority to dismantle opm? >> so the administration's proproposal is about merging the mission of opm and the mission of gsa to make sure we have a stable and sustainable platform to deliver on the missions into the future. the legal analysis of what statutory authorities exist today to enact parts of the transaction are still under going. >> so are there no existing formal legal opinions that you could hand to us that assessed the administration's authority to engage in this reorganization as you describe it in. >> i don't believe that there is
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any final documents that, you know, are ongoing -- par of ongoing analysis. >> what was the legal analysis or guidance of the administration's authority to order this reorganization before the decision was made? in other words, did you just not consider it a matter for the lawyers? >> so the proposal came out at a high level in june 2018, all right and that put forward kind of the view of what we believed as the possible. and we're kinning to go through a toll gate process, a 6 sig ma process, the best practice in the private secretary are to are transformational change of this kind. as part of that we addressed the legal analysis. that is one work stream within the toll gate process. additional work streams include understanding the impacts to our customers and stake hoerlds would be, impacts to the workforce, how we can mitigate different things create efficiency and effectiveness in
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service delivery. >> these were the police considerations you looked at. why is the legal authority redacted in the documents that opm provided yesterday in can we put that back up on the screen? i want to look at them. so legal authority -- that whole -- the whole section is redacted out, which is the one part you think that would be the easiest to turn over because it's an interpretation of the law, right? so can you tell us why the legal authority is redacted in these documents that we received yesterday? >> yeah, so it's an ongoing process. the legal analysis is ongoing. at this time we don't have a final analysis to share. >> oh, okay. but why does that give you the authority to redact that? in other words, you're saying that the legal analysis might change or might be more information given. but why and see justification for blacking out what the legal
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authority was when that memo was written? >> so our acting direct has instructed us to provide as much information as we can to the committee that we fully expect the oversight authority of the committee and want to work with you. our attorneys are providing guidance as we go through interagency workings to determine what to present and we. we're not withholding anything at this time. we're just going through the process of release going all. >> got you. so mr. billy, if i'm reading the last several responses correctly together, there was no detailed legal analysis or no legal analysis at all done of the proposed merger before it was accomplished. in other words, there was just an sufferings that it was lawful. an assumption it was lawful. but how do you know that opm has not been the subject of an
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illegal scheme? how do you know you're not violating the law? >> so we know that as you said there is an assumption that some parts likely are able to be executed under statutory authority. we are going through the analysis. and there are different authorities that could potentially move different pieces, how they would affect people versus resources. we are going through the full analysis together with the interagency partners on this. we provided a legislative proposal to this congress to work with us to engage in the legislative process because we believe it would be the most effective and efficient way to carry out the entirety of the tlafrmgs we critically need for the attention to help us deliver on merit system principles moving into the future. >> okay, well, lack, in closing out this part of the hearing, i just want to say that the opm made a very significant decision essentially to dismantle itself or dissolve itself without first
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obtaining any formal opinion as to the legality of this decision. and my first take on it having looked at some of the legal authorities is that the proposal is likely illegal. the administration came up with a plan and never took care to vet it or to assess its lawfulness and there are obviously dramatic implications for this. so we'll have to -- you know, proceed there. i would just says generally i'll offer mr. meadows a chance to close if he has anything to say. but i hope all the witnesses heard a strong bipartisan sense that our ability to get documents is essential to our law making function. and we will never allow that to become a partisan football. we are all committed that when congress seeks documents it gets the documents, because the law making function is integral to what we do. mr. meadows. >> yeah, i would just agree with
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that. we just need the documents. this is not my first request for documents. when we were in the majority mr. borden knows that i'm there and when we talk about miss tyson know that. mr. bill withy maybe less so. but i can assure you that getting -- and pages does not equal quality. and i guess what i would rather have is quality -- i know it's real god to come here and say we gave you 30,000 documents or 30,000 pages. and i appreciate you making the difference, mr. borden because you know it all too well. and -- but enough said. i think you all have gotten the message process. here is the only other thing i would say. for the people who produce -- that actually do your production i would encourage all three of you to check in with them. because sometimes they act like they are making great progress only to find out that they are not making as much progress as
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they would indicate. oh we're making great progress. and yet when you look at it -- if you would check with the people doing the production because i think some of that can be stream lined. it's not for first rodeo for any of you three. if you do that i think we'll be happy and i have nothing further to add so i'll yield back. >> mr. meadows thank you very much. thank you all of you for coming and look forward to working with you to complete the production process. many thanks. the meeting is adjourned.
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