The federal government agency that owns the building housing President Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C. hotel has determined that it does not violate the terms of its lease.
The General Services Administration’s ruling comes as a huge blow for watchdog groups and Democrats who’ve charged that Trump’s presidency put his company in breach of the lease, which states that an elected official may not be involved with or benefit from the agreement.
In a letter to the President, GSA Contracting Officer Kevin Terry wrote, “the lease is valid and in full force and effect.”
Terry said prior legal review and reporting on the relevant section of the lease “has focused on only a few select words, and reached simplistic ‘black and white’ conclusions regarding the meaning and implications of the clause.”
That clause reads: “No … elected official of the Government of the United States … shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom…”
House and Senate Democrats wrote to GSA Acting Administrator Timothy Horne days after Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration to warn that the President was now serving as both landlord and tenant of the historic Old Post Office building.
The Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, a liberal watchdog group, also filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Manhattan arguing that the hotel posed a grave conflict of interest in that it accepts money from foreign governments, which is prohibited by the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.
Conservative organizations and foreign dignitaries have booked events and rooms at Trump International Hotel, raising questions that they were attempting to curry favor with the President.
In his letter, Terry said that Trump made important changes in the lease’s management in the run-up to and in the days following his inauguration. The letter stated that Trump transferred his interests in the hotel’s membership corporation to “DJT Holdings Managing Member LLC” on Jan. 23, and noted that the hotel added an amendment to its operating agreement ensuring that it “will not make any distributions to DJT Holdings LLC or to any other entity in which President Trump has a direct, indirect or beneficial interest” while Trump is in office.
The remaining individuals and entities that the letter lists as having an ownership interest include LLCs and trusts in the names of Trump’s adult children, including his daughter Ivanka, who stepped down from the Trump Organization and now has an informal role advising her father in the White House.
The President himself “is not an officer, director, manager or other official in any of the entities” managing the lease, the letter states.