Senate Dems Request IG Inspection re: Emolument Clause Violation

U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CN), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) called on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General John Roth to conduct an investigation into whether President Trump has violated the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution by using DHS funds for security when he and his family’s travel also potentially enriches his private business holdings. As the senators noted, President Trump has refused to establish a blind trust for his vast business assets, raising significant potential for conflicts of interest and risking the perception that he is using the presidency for his family’s private gain.

For example, when the President visits his private club, Mar-a-Lago, which is still operating as a business, he brings with him staff, Secret Service, and military aides. If DHS is using its resources to pay Mar-a-Lago for rooms or other expenses, such an arrangement allows the president to personally profit off of every vacation he takes to his properties. A similar problem arises when Secret Service accompanies the Trump children on Trump Organization business trips, and potentially when it provides security for Trump Tower in New York City. The senators highlighted that any payment for goods or services from the federal government to the Trump Organization amounts to a violation of the Domestic Emoluments Clause.

Distinct from the Foreign Emoluments Clause, the Domestic Emoluments Clause is contained in Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution, which reads “The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.”

Emolument has been interpreted to mean any profit from taxpayer resources.

The Mar-a-Lago controversy is just one of the many examples of ways that the president may be directing federal resources to benefit his and his families interests, the senators stated.

The senators wrote, “as you know, President Trump has not maintained this tradition of transparency and accountability. Instead, he placed his vast business holdings in a fully revocable trust that is overseen by Donald Trump, Jr. and one of President Trump’s longtime business associates, Allen Weisselberg. President Trump’s two adult sons manage the Trump Organization businesses, but the President is the trust’s named beneficiary and maintains the control to revoke the trust or change the management at any time.”

“This arrangement raises significant potential for conflicts of interest and risks the perception that President Trump is exploiting his public office for his family’s private gain,” the senators continued.

The president’s vacations to “Mar-a-Lago highlight the significant potential conflicts of interest that exist due to the President’s refusal to divest his assets and place them in a blind trust. The Secret Service expenses potentially incurred to stay at Mar-a-Lago are just one example of the numerous likely conflicts that will arise that involve using Department of Homeland Security (DHS) resources in a way that privately benefits the President and his family. We believe your office must conduct a thorough investigation into these issues and continuously monitor the potential for conflicts and violations of the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the Constitution during President Trump’s term,” the senators added.

Here’s the full text of the letter:

Government Teams Recovered $4.3B in FY2013 and $19.2B over the Last 5 Years

Attorney General Eric Holder and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today released the annual Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control (HCFAC) Program report showing that for every dollar spent on health care-related fraud and abuse investigations through this and other programs in the last three years, the government recovered $8.10.  This is the highest three-year average return on investment in the 17-year history of the HCFAC Program.

810The government’s health care fraud prevention and enforcement efforts recovered a record-breaking $4.3 billion in taxpayer dollars in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, up from $4.2 billion in FY 2012, from individuals and companies who attempted to defraud federal health programs serving seniors or who sought payments from taxpayers to which they were not entitled.  Over the last five years, the administration’s enforcement efforts have recovered $19.2 billion, up from $9.4 billion over the prior five-year period.  Since the inception of the program in1997, the HCFAC Program has returned more than $25.9 billion to the Medicare Trust Funds and treasury.

These recoveries, released today in the annual HCFAC Program report, demonstrate President Obama’s commitment to making the elimination of fraud, waste and abuse, particularly in health care, a top priority for the administration.  This is the fifth consecutive year that the program has increased recoveries over the past year, climbing from $2 billion in FY 2008 to over $4 billion every year since FY 2011.

The success of this joint Department of Justice and HHS effort was made possible in part by the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), created in 2009 to prevent fraud, waste and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid and to crack down on individuals and entities that are abusing the system and costing American taxpayers billions of dollars.

“With these extraordinary recoveries, and the record-high rate of return on investment we’ve achieved on our comprehensive health care fraud enforcement efforts, we’re sending a strong message to those who would take advantage of their fellow citizens, target vulnerable populations, and commit fraud on federal health care programs,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “Thanks to initiatives like HEAT, our work to combat fraud has never been more cooperative or more effective.  And our unprecedented commitment to holding criminals accountable, and securing remarkable results for American taxpayers, is paying dividends.”

“These impressive recoveries for the American taxpayer are just one aspect of the comprehensive anti-fraud strategy we have implemented since the passage of the Affordable Care Act,” said HHS Secretary Sebelius.  “We’ve cracked down on tens of thousands health care providers suspected of Medicare fraud. New enrollment screening techniques are proving effective in preventing high risk providers from getting into the system, and the new computer analytics system that detects and stops fraudulent billing before money ever goes out the door is accomplishing positive results – all of which are adding to savings for the Medicare Trust Fund.”

The new authorities under the Affordable Care Act granted to HHS and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) were instrumental in clamping down on fraudulent activity in health care.  In FY 2013, CMS announced the first use of its temporary moratoria authority granted by the Affordable Care Act.  The action stopped enrollment of new home health or ambulance enrollments in three fraud hot spots around the country, allowing CMS and its law enforcement partners to remove bad actors from the program while blocking provider entry or re-entry into these already over-supplied markets.

The Justice Department and HHS have improved their coordination through HEAT and are currently operating Medicare Fraud Strike Force teams in nine areas across the country. The strike force teams use advanced data analysis techniques to identify high-billing levels in health care fraud hot spots so that interagency teams can target emerging or migrating schemes as well as chronic fraud by criminals masquerading as health care providers or suppliers. The Justice Department’s enforcement of the civil False Claims Act and the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act has produced similar record-breaking results.  These combined efforts coordinated under HEAT have expanded local partnerships and helped educate Medicare beneficiaries about how to protect themselves against fraud.

In Fiscal Year 2013, the strike force secured records in the number of cases filed (137), individuals charged (345), guilty pleas secured (234) and jury trial convictions (46). Beyond these remarkable results, the defendants who were charged and sentenced are facing significant time in prison – an average of 52 months in prison for those sentenced in FY 2013, and an average of 47 months in prison for those sentenced since 2007.

In FY 2013, the Justice Department opened 1,013 new criminal health care fraud investigations involving 1,910 potential defendants, and a total of 718 defendants were convicted of health care fraud-related crimes during the year.  The department also opened 1,083 new civil health care fraud investigations.

The strike force coordinated a takedown in May 2013 that resulted in charges by eight strike force cities against 89 individuals, including doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, for their alleged participation in Medicare fraud schemes involving approximately $223 million in false billings. As a part of the May 2013 takedown, HHS also suspended or took other administrative action against 18 providers using authority under the health care law to suspend payments until an investigation is complete.

In FY 2013, the strike force secured records in the number of cases filed (137), individuals charged (345), guilty pleas secured (234) and jury trial convictions (48). Beyond these remarkable results, the defendants who were charged and sentenced are facing significant time in prison – an average of 52 months in prison for those sentenced in FY 2013, and an average of 47 months in prison for those sentenced since 2007.

In March 2011, CMS began an ambitious project to revalidate all 1.5 million Medicare enrolled providers and suppliers under the Affordable Care Act screening requirements. As of September 2013, more than 535,000 providers were subject to the new screening requirements and over 225,000 lost the ability to bill Medicare due to the Affordable Care Act requirements and other proactive initiatives.  Since the Affordable Care Act, CMS has also revoked 14,663 providers and suppliers’ ability to bill the Medicare program. These providers were removed from the program because they had felony convictions, were not operational at the address CMS had on file, or were not in compliance with CMS rules.

HHS and the Justice Department are leading historic efforts with the private sector to bring innovation to the fight against health care fraud. In addition to real-time data and information exchanges with the private sector, CMS’ Program Integrity Command Center worked with the HHS Office of the Inspector General and the FBI to conduct 93 missions to detect, investigate, and reduce improper payments in FY 2013.

From May 2013 through August 2013, CMS led an outreach and education campaign targeted to specific communities where Medicare fraud is more prevalent.  This multimedia campaign included national television, radio, and print outreach and resulted in an increased awareness of how to detect and report Medicare fraud.

To read today’s report visit http://oig.hhs.gov/publications/docs/hcfac/FY2013-hcfac.pdf

For previous years’ reports visit https://oig.hhs.gov/reports-and-publications/hcfac/index.asp

For more information on the joint DOJ-HHS Strike Force activities, visit: www.StopMedicareFraud.gov/.

IRS Scandal Manufactured by Darrell Issa’s Himself

Darrell Issa has been shown to be a liar – and a fraud . Why would Issa suddenly do a 360 – and start up the Benghazi investigation again – when he’s been so adamant about getting to the bottom of the so-called IRS scandal? Issa’s sudden change in witch-hunting direction may have something to do with the not-so-surprising revelation that the entire IRS debacle has been one large manufactured scandal – created by Issa himself. According to the inspector general of the Treasury Department – whose report helped drive the IRS political targeting controversy – the examination into conservative groups was limited because of a request from Republicans in the House.  A spokesperson for the Treasury’s Inspector General for tax administration Russell George – said that the IG’s office was asked specifically by Congressman Darrell Issa himself – “to narrowly focus on Tea Party organizations.”