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House Democrats open investigation of Trump’s campaign travel costs

House Democrats launched an investigation Wednesday into President Trump’s frequent use of Air Force One and other government resources for campaign travel, seeking financial documents from the White House counsel and Trump campaign officials.

House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat, said in letters to the White House and Trump campaign that taxpayers have “very little insight” into how the campaign reimburses the government for the president’s political trips. She noted that Mr. Trump flew to more than 40 political rallies for GOP candidates in the 2018 midterms, and that his 2020 election campaign “is well underway.”

“As you know, campaign finance regulations provide rules governing how a campaign, including a presidential campaign, should pay for travel aboard a government aircraft,” Ms. Lofgren wrote.

Mr. Trump, as his predecessor Barack Obama did in 2012, often combines campaign trips with official duties, with the campaign required to reimburse the government for a share of the cost. President Obama also was criticized for the practice, and his spokesmen insisted at the time that the White House and the Obama campaign were following the rules for sharing costs.

The formula for that cost-sharing is, Ms. Lofgren said, “shrouded from public scrutiny.” A Congressional Research Service report in 2012 said the reimbursement policies of specific administrations for political travel “generally are not publicly available,” but appear to follow guidelines developed by the Reagan White House in the 1980s.

“For example, if the day is divided equally between an official and an unofficial event, then the president, vice president, first lady, and accompanying staff, or a political organization, must reimburse the government for 50% of the amount that would have been owed to the government if the entire trip had been political,” the report said.

Whether a trip is for official or political purposes, the Air Force pays all operational and other costs incurred by the use of the aircraft, CRS said.

Ms. Lofgren said in her letter that just last week, Mr. Trump “filmed a video criticizing an opponent in the presidential race while aboard Air Force One.”

Her committee is seeking within 30 days “any documents, communications and records that provide guidance concerning how expenses are apportioned for official and non-official travel, including the formula or policy that the campaign and White House use to determine how to pay for presidential travel.”

The panel also wants a list of all campaign events paid by either the campaign or the federal government, and any guidance from the Justice Department or the Federal Election Commission.

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