Democrats cry foul as GSA inspector condemns Trump Hotel contract

GSA lawyers knew government lease to Trump Hotel might violate Constitution, but ‘punted’ on legal concerns

The Trump International Hotel's lease with the General Services Administration is in possible violation of the Constitution, the GSA inspector general said in a report Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
The Trump International Hotel's lease with the General Services Administration is in possible violation of the Constitution, the GSA inspector general said in a report Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted January 16, 2019 at 6:11pm

Democratic lawmakers were outraged Wednesday after the General Services Administration inspector general suggested in a report that a contract between the agency and the Trump International Hotel could be in violation of the Constitution.

In 2016 and 2017, the GSA decided to maintain its lease of the Old Post Office Building to the Trump International Hotel after Donald Trump was elected president — even though a government-issued lease to the real estate organization headed by the president of the United States represents an obvious and serious conflict of interest, the report details.

“GSA’s decision-making process related to Tenant’s possible breach of the lease included serious shortcomings. GSA had an obligation to uphold and enforce the Constitution. However, GSA opted not to seek any guidance from OLC and did not address the constitutional issues related to the management of the lease,” the IG report says.

Trump has retained an interest in his business empire, against the advice of government ethics experts, and put it in a trust managed by his sons Donald Jr. and Eric.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said Wednesday that Trump “should not have any contracts with the federal government.”

“It is an obvious conflict of interest, and it is why the lease for the Trump Hotel in Washington D.C. explicitly prohibits any federal government official from being a party,” Cummings said in a statement. “The Trump Hotel is a glaring physical symbol of the Trump Administration’s refusal to play by the same rules as everyone else.”

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia, the vice chairman of the Oversight Committee, asked in a statement Wednesday whether the president is “faithfully executing the duties of his office and abiding by the laws of this country” or “just looking for ways to profit off of the Presidency.”

Corruption and conflicts of interest in Trump’s administration are “pervasive,” Connolly said.

Trump Hotel in Washington has become a popular gathering place for conservative media, lawmakers, and lobbyists.

Foreign government officials have also stayed and dined at the hotel, a possible violation of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which prohibits the president from accepting emoluments, or payments, from foreign governments and their agents.

The GSA’s lawyers knew the agency’s lease to the Trump International Hotel, which the president still has a financial interest in, potentially violated the Constitution, but they chose to “punt” on the legal questions, the inspector general’s report states.

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