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Rep. Cummings Looks Ahead To A Busy Year For Oversight And Government Reform Panel


While on Twitter today, President Trump referred to the likelihood that House Democrats will investigate his administration now that their victory in the House has given them the power to do so. He says that would be a waste of taxpayer money, and he threatened to investigate them. If there are investigations of this administration, Congressman Elijah Cummings may oversee some of them. He is the ranking member right now of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which means he would likely be the chairman when Democrats take over in January. And he's on the line. Congressman, welcome back to the program.

ELIJAH CUMMINGS: It's good to be with you.

INSKEEP: Do you have a list of things to investigate?

CUMMINGS: I have accumulated a number of issues that the Constitution would pretty much almost mandate that we look into, and we are going to do that. Some of the things, the president may feel we should not look into. But again, the Constitution says that we are to be...

INSKEEP: When...

CUMMINGS: ...A check and balance on the executive branch.

INSKEEP: The Constitution says check and balance - doesn't specify what exactly you would do, I guess, to be a check and balance. What is the first thing you think deserves the attention of this committee?

CUMMINGS: Well, there's so many things. We want to look at the - any kind of violations of the Emoluments Clause; that is, under the Constitution, he cannot receive certain funds from foreign governments.

INSKEEP: Oh, and the president, of course, is still the owner of an international business and has a hotel in Washington where foreign diplomats stay. So you expect to investigate the president's finances.

CUMMINGS: We would have to. I mean, I get kind of upset when people act surprised that we are doing what we are supposed to do. With the Republicans in charge, they have pretty much failed to look into any possible wrongdoing on the part of this president, and we simply are going to do what we are sworn to do - period.

INSKEEP: How far are you willing to go or are you able to go to get your hands on the president's tax returns?

CUMMINGS: I think that's going to be more up to the Financial Services Committee or perhaps Ways and Means.

INSKEEP: Are those are the committees that can just ask for his tax returns and they have to be provided?

CUMMINGS: And they have subpoena power, too, so keep that in mind.

INSKEEP: OK. So they'll be looking at that aspect of that.

CUMMINGS: That's right.

INSKEEP: You are interested in the Emoluments Clause.

CUMMINGS: The Emoluments Clause, but much more than that. The fact is, is that this president has done quite a bit, I think, to bring harm to our democracy. I mean, I look at what he's done with regard to voting rights, and look at what he's done - this administration has done with regard to injecting this citizenship question into our census, which hasn't been done in 50 years - things of that nature. We need to look also at this whole question of security clearances. Keep in mind that Hillary Clinton got in a lot of trouble because of the whole question of documents going into hands of people that were not properly cleared to see them.

INSKEEP: The emails, sure.

CUMMINGS: And - emails. And so, again, we need to look at that. (Unintelligible).

INSKEEP: Because you're interested in the president's use of his phone or various people like Jared Kushner whose security status has been questioned from time to time.

CUMMINGS: That's exactly right. We are also going to look at those issues that affect people - Americans on a day-to-day basis, such as prescription drug prices and the jacking up of the prices overnight and looking at things such as the protections with regard to pre-existing conditions. I could go on and on.

INSKEEP: Do you already have two years' worth of work?

CUMMINGS: Oh, I think we have more than two years' worth of work.

INSKEEP: Congressman, thanks very much. It's been a pleasure talking with you.

CUMMINGS: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Elijah Cummings is the senior Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.

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