New York (CNN)President Donald Trump's nominee to head the IRS owns a stake in two rental units at a Trump-branded hotel in Hawaii.
Trump IRS nominee owns property at Trump-branded hotel
Charles Rettig was questioned by members of the Senate Finance Committee Thursday on topics ranging from his experience as a tax attorney to his management style.
He was also asked to demonstrate how he would remain independent from the Trump White House.
"That's important with any nominee, but it's especially relevant in Mr. Rettig's case, since he owns and rents out condos in a Trump-branded and managed property," Democratic ranking member Senator Ron Wyden said in his opening remarks.
Rettig owns a 50% stake in two rental units at the Waikiki Trump International Hotel and Tower. He noted the existence of those properties on his original financial disclosure form, but did not disclose that they were located at a Trump-branded hotel. He instead described them as "Honolulu, Hawai'i residential rental property," according to a memo from committee staff obtained by CNN.
The memo, which was sent to finance committee members Wednesday, described the staff's review of Rettig's tax returns and other documents.
"Disclosing that information may not have been required by law. My view is, it would have been a smart exercise of judgment. Certainly if you want to eliminate any question about appearances, you can sell the properties off," Wyden said.
Rettig did not address the concern directly during the hearing, but repeatedly pledged to serve in an "impartial, unbiased" manner. He did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment for this story.
According to the memo, Rettig has told the committee he plans to provide more detail.
At the hearing, Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch said that Rettig had been "honest and forthright" at every stage of the vetting process and that any suggestion of a conflict of interest "is the stuff of conspiracy theories."
"Maybe one wants to argue that Mr. Rettig purchased these properties in 2006, during season five of The Apprentice, on the off chance that Mr. Trump would become president and nominate him to be IRS Commissioner. But this is silly," Hatch said.
Rettig has been with the Beverly Hills, California-based law firm Hochman, Salkin, Rettig, Toscher & Perez, P.C. for more than 35 years. During his career, he has represented clients before the IRS, the Tax Division of the US Department of Justice, and various other taxing authorities. He said he oversees 35 employees.
If confirmed, Rettig will head the IRS — which has about 80,000 workers — as it continues to implement the new tax law. But budget cuts have meant that the agency must do more with less.
He would replace Commissioner John Koskinen, whose five-year term expired in November 2017. David Kautter has been serving as acting commissioner since then.