The General Services Administration, which manages the Old Post Office building in which his Trump International Hotel is housed, until now declined to take a position on whether Trump was violating a clause preventing elected officials from benefiting from the contract. Now that he has been sworn in and has formally announced that he will not divest ownership interest in the Trump Organization, House and Senate Democrats want answers.
In twin letters to GSA Acting Administrator Timothy Horne, House and Senate Democrats asked what steps the agency was taking to address this apparent breach of contract.
“The violation of the terms of the lease is no longer hypothetical, as President Trump will soon oversee GSA and appoint a new GSA administrator, effectively making him simultaneously landlord and tenant of the Old Post Office building,” Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Tom Carper (D-DE) wrote.
In another letter, Democratic Reps. Elijah Cummings (DE), Peter DeFazio (OR), Gerald Connolly (VA) and Andre Carson (IN) asked Horne to turn over correspondence with the Trump team to prove it is working to address the issue.
"Our hope has always been that President Trump would resolve these breach-of-lease and conflict of interest issues prior to being sworn in as President on January 20,” the Democrats said. "Unfortunately, President Trump has refused to address these concerns, and taxpayer dollars may now be squandered as career public servants are forced to take remedial action to cure this breach.”
Ethics experts have warned about the lease breach since Trump was elected in November, and last month Democratic lawmakers received a briefing from GSA officials on the conflict of interest concerns raised by Trump’s contract.
The GSA said at the time that “no definitive statement” could be made about a breach of the agreement until “the full circumstances surrounding the President-elect’s business arrangements have been finalized and he has assumed office.”
Steven Schooner and Daniel Gordon, former administrators in the Office of Management and Budget, who have spoken out about the hotel lease have said the contract language allows the GSA to move forward with termination.
Trump has continued to use the hotel as a staging ground for political events, hosting a lunch for 200 supporters there on Inauguration Day. The President has vowed to donate profits from foreign officials who book rooms at his hotels to avoid violating the Emoluments Clause, a constitutional provision prohibiting the president from accepting payments from foreign governments.
The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal watchdog group, included concerns about foreign officials patronizing the hotel in a civil complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. Trump said the suit was “without merit.”
Read both letters below.