Is Trump Profiting From the Presidency? 'Serious Investigation' Into Foreign Payments Demanded By House Democrats

U.S. President Donald Trump makes remarks in the Oval Office prior to signing the bipartisan Interdict Act, a bill to stop the flow of opioids into the United States, on January 10, 2018 in Washington, D.C. Pool/Getty

Congress must begin a "serious investigation" into whether President Donald Trump's business empire is violating the Constitution's ban on receiving gifts from foreign governments, a group of House Democrats said Thursday.

In a letter to House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, the group of 17 Democrats said that the Trump Organization has failed to turn over documents relating to his foreign business deals—and demanded that the committee use its subpoena power and conduct a "serious investigation" of Trump's possible violations of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

"Over the past year, President Trump and his attorneys have stalled virtually any credible oversight, and unfortunately our Committee has done nothing to push back on these efforts," the letter stated.

The Emoluments Clause bars federal officials from accepting a payment or gift from a foreign government. Just before taking office, then President-elect Trump had promised to cede control of the Trump Organization to his sons Eric and Donald Jr., but the company continues to profit from foreign business. He also promised to donate any foreign profits from his Washington, D.C. hotel to the public—but the Trump Organization later said that it would not ask guests at the Trump International Hotel if they are using money from foreign governments.

It is unclear if the president is making the promised donations, Democrats said in the letter, which called on Gowdy to subpoena the Trump Organization to hand over all documents "referring or related to" the empire's financial transactions with foreign governments.

"There is no longer any reason for the Trump Organization to continue defying our Committee's request for documents and a briefing," the letter stated.

The hotel is just one of the Trump Organization's major dealings with foreigners. Since taking office just one year ago, Trump has reportedly sold more than $35 million in real estate to secret buyers.

It is unclear whether Gowdy will address the Democratic committee members' concerns. The South Carolina Republican led the lengthy Benghazi investigation that some say was designed to damage Hillary Clinton's presidential aspirations. More recently, his Oversight Committee is investigating the FBI's decision to not charge the former Secretary of State for the use of her private email server.

Last year, several groups sued Trump claiming his foreign profits amounted to a "gift" under the Emoluments Clause, but the suit was dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge George Daniels, who ruled that the plaintiffs did not have standing and that the issue should be up to Congress to decide.